Last week, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia announced a plan to merge Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University.
Both schools are located in Cobb County, and SPSU is located in Marietta. KSU is Georgia’s third largest university and is several times larger than nearby SPSU, which only has around 5,000 students.
Some students from the two schools feel the smaller more technology-focused SPSU will not mix well with KSU. Students created a petition on Change.org that now has more than 1,000 signatures.
“I think everything that is happening is a little overblown but it did come out of nowhere. Just because two schools are close together doesn’t mean they need to join together. They are totally different,” said Molly Jones, a former KSU student.
School mergers are a reality for all state school systems. It is possible that the University of Georgia could be joined with a smaller state school if the Board of Regents voted to do so.
Kristine O’Neil, a senior advertising major from Tyrone, is not worried about the possibility of UGA merging with another institution. She sees positive aspects to a merger.
“I don’t think it would have a personal effect on me or my experience, but it might give UGA a chance to further expand outside of Athens and reach more students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to attend school in Athens,” O’Neil said.
John Millsaps, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Media and Publications for the University System of Georgia, provided some insight into school mergers and how they are decided. The Red & Black could not reach him by phone, but he provided information through email.
In November of 2011, the Board of Regents approved the principles used to assess potential consolidations. The six principles are: to increase opportunities to raise educational attainment levels, improve accessibility, regional identity, and compatibility, to enhance regional economic development, to streamline administrative services while maintaining or improving service quality, to create potential for economies of scale and scope and to avoid duplication of academic programs while optimizing access to instruction.
“The driver for consolidations is in an era of tighter resources for public higher education. It is essential to look at the University System to assure it has the right configuration to meet current and future student needs and to improve service to students,” Millsaps said.
Millsaps said a school merger involving UGA has already occurred. In January, the Board of Regents approved the realignment of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography with UGA. The merger became effective on July 1 and is supposed to streamline operations and enhance research efforts.
The Skidaway Institute is located near Savannah on the Georgia coast. It is composed of researchers who conduct oceanographic research and partner with other Georgia institutions to provide instruction and facilitate their own research.
Mike Sullivan, the external affairs manager for the Skidaway Institute, said the institute has always done worked with the marine sciences department at UGA. The changes that came with the merger have only had a few months to take effect.
“This is a long process, it’s not a snap your fingers and make it happen kind of thing,” Sullivan said. “It will happen over semesters and months.”
The researchers at the Skidaway Institute will have to increase teaching activities since they are now joined with the Marine Sciences department at UGA. However, they will mainly work with graduate students as they have in the past.
“We have not yet had significant changes as it relates to the merger,” Sullivan said.
The Skidaway Institute is located more than 200 miles from Athens, so distance is an important issue. There is limited housing available for those who are visiting Skidaway to conduct research. Sullivan said there might be a semester on the coast or mini-mester program in the works as part of the merger with UGA.