Regents give preliminary approval to KSU-SPSU merger

Previously merged institutions

Waycross College and South Georgia College became South Georgia State College

Macon State College and Middle Georgia College became Middle Georgia State College

Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University became University of North Georgia

Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University became Georgia Regents University

Next steps

The state Board of Regents gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University. Still left to do:

  • Withing two weeks a committee of stakeholders from both schools will begin work on a consolidation plan.
  • Oct. 1, 2014: Plan from the consolidation committee is due to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • December 2014: SACS considers the plan for approval.
  • January 2015: Regents consider approval of final consolidation plan.
  • Fall 2015: First class of students attends the new consolidated university.

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The state Board of Regents unanimously gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University.

The move came despite objections from SPSU students that the the polytechnic college would lose its identity and the merger would hurt the school’s reputation and increase class sizes.

To allay at least one of their concerns, several regents urged university system officials to try to retain a portion of the SPSU name in the new institution, and possibly on students’ diplomas.

The merger, announced by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby at the beginning of the month, shocked students at both campuses. Presidents at both schools said they were told of the plan about 10 days before the announcement.

The consolidation will be the fifth approved by the regents as part of a merger plan suggested two years ago by Huckaby as a way to cut costs and reshape the university system.

The first round of consolidations, approved earlier this year, included merging eight institutions into four, cutting the number of schools in the system to 31. Those mergers are expected to save the system between between $5 million and $7.5 million annually.

Savings from the KSU/SPSU merger are expected to be less than $5 million annually, Shelley Nickel, an associate vice chancellor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A consolidation committee of stakeholders from both schools will begin work in the next few weeks on the specifics of the merger, including finding places to save money and addressing differences in programs and curriculum. KSU President Dan Papp will lead the committee and will be president of the merged institution.

Specifics on the proposed cost savings and possible job losses — which SPSU students wanted to know more about — weren’t available Tuesday and likely will come from the committee proposal, officials said.

Papp reiterated his belief that any savings would come from cutting duplicate administrative and overhead expenses. University officials have said that any savings from the merger would be reinvested into the new institution and used for students.

“I think a great disservice was done in not allowing input before the decision was made,” said Eric Cooney Jr., a senior technical communications major at SPSU and student leader of the anti-merger movement. For him, the next step is ensuring the consolidation committee is fair and balanced.

Cooney was one of three current and former SPSU students to address the regents at Tuesday’s meeting. About 35 SPSU students rallied across the street from Tuesday’s meeting, holding signs that said “Keep SPSU True” and chanting, “Save our school.”

“At this point a lot of students realize that this is a done deal,” said Megan Clark, 20, a senior biology major from Jasper. “We just wanted the vote delayed to get more information and more transparency.”

The merger plan also must be approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting agency in December 2014. Final approval from the regents is scheduled for January 2015.

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