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Kennesaw State says $10 million donation to be used for scholarships

New signage for Kennesaw State University at the corner of Chastain and Frey roads was dedicated Jan. 7, 2019.
New signage for Kennesaw State University at the corner of Chastain and Frey roads was dedicated Jan. 7, 2019.

Kennesaw State University announced Wednesday it has received its largest gift ever, a $10 million donation that will be used for student scholarships.

KSU is using the donation from Rosemary and John Brown to establish an endowment matching fund to benefit the university’s Honors College. The university is hoping to raise as much as $25 million from other donors.

John W. Brown was the longtime chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the Stryker Corp., a medical device company based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rosemary Brown retired after a 30-year career as a math teacher and is an active member of KSU’s Honors College Advisory Board.

“By investing in the Kennesaw State University Honors College, we are helping these students create the relationships and have the experiences that will allow them to change the course of their lives and the future of our community,” Rosemary Brown said in a statement.

Kennesaw State University graduates during the 223rd Kennesaw State University commencement ceremony at the convocation center on the university’s main campus in Kennesaw on May 9, 2019.
Kennesaw State University graduates during the 223rd Kennesaw State University commencement ceremony at the convocation center on the university’s main campus in Kennesaw on May 9, 2019.

KSU’s Honors College offers special topics courses, interdisciplinary seminars and diverse learning experiences for academically talented students. Its enrollment has increased over the last three years by 129% to about 1,400 students, university officials said.

Many KSU students come from families whose incomes are below the state average and need help paying for school. Nearly one-half of its students borrow money to pay tuition and other expenses, University System of Georgia data shows. KSU students who earn bachelor’s degrees owe an average of $26,644 in student loan debt after graduation.

>> RELATED | Student debt and the class of 2018

Jennifer Lee, higher education policy analyst for the nonprofit Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, hopes university leaders will create scholarships for financially struggling students.

“There are a lot of students with financial need,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s a diverse and growing school.”

The median household income for KSU students is about $54,000, she said, which is slightly lower than the statewide average of about $55,600. The average annual cost, or net price, for Georgians enrolled in undergraduate degree programs at KSU is about $17,600, according to USG data.

“That’s a lot for a middle-class family,” Lee said.

University leaders were excited about the gift Wednesday. KSU, founded in 1963, has sought in recent years to raise its profile by increasing its research and popular gaming program. Its growth has resulted in the need for more student housing and other services.

>> RELATED | KSU sees enrollment growth, proposes new dorm for students

The state’s Board of Regents consolidated KSU with Marietta-based Southern Polytechnic State University in 2015, making it one of the largest schools in Georgia. Its enrollment last fall was nearly 38,000 students, the third-largest enrollment in Georgia, a 6.7% increase from the prior fall.

“The generosity of Rosemary and John Brown will have a transformational effect for the entire university,” said KSU President Pamela Whitten.

Kennesaw State University President Pamela Whitten.
Kennesaw State University President Pamela Whitten.

“It aligns perfectly with KSU’s guiding principle of putting students first and will provide life-changing opportunities for generations of exceptional students.”

Other Stryker Corp. leaders have made large contributions to Atlanta-area schools in recent years. Ronda Stryker, who sits on the company’s board of directors, and her husband, William Johnston, donated $30 million to Spelman College in December 2018, the largest single gift from living donors to the private, historically black college. Ronda Stryker serves on Spelman’s board of trustees.

KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY

Enrollment: 37,807

Net price: $17,618

Debt for bachelor’s degree recipients: $26,644

Percentage of students taking federal student loans: 49

Sources: University System of Georgia, U.S. Department of Education