On Wednesday morning, Vice President for Advancement Ron Dempsey took questions from a group of 70 people at the Marietta Area Council meeting for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce at the Mansour Center off Roswell Street.
Dempsey said the enrollment at SPSU for the fall 2013 semester is about 6,550 students, which is an increase of about 5.6 percent over last fall.
“We are the fastest growing institution in the system,” Dempsey said.
Despite the growth, in less than a year, Dempsey said SPSU and KSU will have to present an organizational plan to their staff. An implementation team with representatives from both institutions will work out the details.
The merger will require consent by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December 2014 before the Board of Regents finalizes the consolidation in January 2015.
The programs now taught on the SPSU campus will remain at that location because the labs and computer systems housed at SPSU would be too expensive to duplicate on KSU’s campus, Dempsey predicted.
Concerns about traffic
Dempsey said there has also been concern by students and Marietta residents about an increase of traffic with students driving back and forth between the two campuses to attend classes.
KSU is in unincorporated Cobb County near Kennesaw off Interstate 75. Ten miles away is SPSU in Marietta, south of the 120 Loop.
Dempsey said there should not be a need for the commute between schools. Students should be able to get both their core classes and course work specific to a major done at the same campus, he added.
But, once the merger is complete, it will be easier for students to transfer to a different program housed at another campus.
It is an opportunity for the two colleges to give a comprehensive education, Dempsey said.
“As a sociologist, I am very excited to see the evolution of a new institution,” Dempsey said. “(The consolidated school) has potential to become a nationally-recognized institution very quickly.”
Two schools, two cities, one community
The merged schools will operate under the Kennesaw State University name by the 2015 fall semester, which has SPSU alumni and students worried about the loss of the Southern Polytechnic State University name, Dempsey said.
Dempsey said he feels confident that within the consolidated KSU, there will be the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Technology.
Keeping the name will be important to continue to raise money for the program, Dempsey said.
Beth Sessoms, Marietta’s economic development director, said both universities already have a large economic impact on Cobb, which will grow larger as the campuses expand.
Part of any expansion east of the SPSU campus would include two city road projects tied to the Marietta University Enhancement plan, where money from the redevelopment of Franklin Road could be used to connect the campus to the corridor, Sessoms said.
The plan includes building two connector roads that would stretch from Cobb Parkway to Franklin Road, with bike lanes in both directions and sidewalks with lighting that line each side.
Sessoms said companies looking to move into Marietta are attracted to an educated work force.
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, who also was at the Chamber meeting Saturday morning, said the merger is a great opportunity.
Mathews said KSU had a weakness in engineering and SPSU was lacking in an arts program.
“I think it is a great complement to each other,” Mathews said.
Mathews described the KSU campus as a neighbor right outside of the Kennesaw city limits.
“We take advantage of it every time we can,” Mathews said.
One way to get the advantage is by enticing students who are venturing to the area for an education to stay in Cobb to “live, work and play,” Mathews said.
“There is a quality of life we have set in place in the whole northwest corridor, including Kennesaw,” Mathews said.
Tricia Pridemore, who attended the Saturday morning meeting, is hoping to replace Rep. Phil Gingrey in Congress next year.
Pridemore said the merger “is a state and local issue. I am running for federal office.”