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Why KSU Matters to Our Future

Why Kennesaw's economic livelihood depends on the university's success.

Being a senior in college is really no different than being a senior in high school. You’re caught in this weird vacuum where you don’t know if you’re looking ahead or looking behind you - you’re either daydreaming about what the end of the tunnel looks like, or you’re reminiscing on the last three or four years and how much things have changed in such a short amount of time.

A few weeks ago, I was walking to class and encountered a throng of incoming freshmen. Sure, there was more than likely a couple of transfer students in that mix as well, but as a commonality, they were all new to KSU.

They stood outside the student center, waving their neon colored scheduling sheets in their faces like bright orange and pink fans. Some of them had their parents with them. Some of them had their kids with them. They were every color, race and ethnicity under the sun - white, black, brown, red, and thanks to the popularity of Jersey Shore, more than a few orange ones, too.

If only for a brief moment, I stopped dead in my tracks. This, I assure you, was no feeble queue. There had to have been at least 300 or 400 people in single file, all awaiting their opportunity to join the thing I have taken for granted over the last three years.

I don’t need to tell you how important is to the community. Of course, it’s not the sole reason Kennesaw has had so much relative economic success over the last decade, but I don’t think anyone can say that KSU hasn’t been one of the chief driving forces behind the town’s recent growth, either.

KSU isn’t a perfect organization. It has faults, and flaws and foibles, just like any other operation, I suppose. I criticize the university quite frequently, but that’s because I care about the future of the institute, and more importantly, the people whose futures depend on that institute. A quality assurance checker that lets everything pass the assembly line is someone that doesn’t care about his or her company, and Kennesaw State is a company I have a deep reverence for.

Now, some of the people within that institute, I couldn’t care less for, but as a general concept, it’s something that concerns me tremendously - not only as a student, but as a person that will one day require the services of other professionals and paraprofessionals.

I’ve talked to a few administrative types at KSU recently, and the early prediction for fall 2011 enrollment is almost 25,000 students.

There’s no denying that if all 25,000 of them graduated, we’d all be in store for a far better future.

That’s 25,000 more teachers, 25,000 more physicians, 25,000 more lawyers and 25,000 more people to run America’s businesses. Needless to say, we’re going to need as many KSU graduates as we can get if we want to carve ourselves out of the local recession - and if we want to get ourselves out of the national recession, such success has to be repeated and duplicated in every county in the nation.

And that’s where Kennesaw is incredibly fortunate. Not every town in America has a place of higher education within its city limits, let alone one as remarkable as Kennesaw State University. At this point, I don’t even think it’s debatable when I say that KSU has done more for the city of Kennesaw over the last 10 years than any other institute or organization. It’s brought more people into it, it’s put more professionals in it, and I can only fathom that amount of revenue all the students have generated for local merchants. Simply put, if KSU isn’t succeeding, neither is Kennesaw.

Alas, my stay at KSU is nearing a close. In a few short months, thousands of students will walk out of Kennesaw State, only to get replaced by twice as many incoming freshman. The student population is growing, and so are my concerns for the well-being of the university.

At this juncture, the only institute capable of curtailing the university’s success is KSU itself. Kennesaw State University is feeling tremendous pressure from both real estate stake holders and idealists in the local community to simultaneously expand and contract. Rising student fees and mass HOPE funding cutbacks mean that shortly, a number of would-be attendees will get priced out of enrolling. Granted, an upstart football program may attract quite a few high school graduates, but at the cost of expunging a large contingency of nontraditional students.

First and foremost, KSU should be a vessel for education. Yes, it is indeed a business as well, but it is a business that serves a greater social service than most, as the failure of KSU doesn’t constitute a mere business collapse, but the insolvency of our community’s very future.

For the administrators and students at Kennesaw State, I encourage you to proceed with campus and community growth with extreme caution. The moment you let corporate interests and off-campus ideologues dictate the future of the university, the moment you seal the very fate of Kennesaw’s economic livelihood.

You may have qualms with KSU. Heck, I have qualms with KSU. That said, we wouldn’t be where we are as a community today without it, and without KSU?

I’m not even sure Kennesaw would have a “tomorrow” to talk about.

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