Discovering that a university’s undergraduate and graduate programs are being phased out can come as both a surprise and a disappointment to students, especially when they are pursuing their degree at that university. The students of Georgia Tech-Savannah (GTS) were no exception, after Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson accepted a series of recommendations on June 15 to end the degree programs.
“Some students have indicated that there will be financial hardship if they are required to move to Atlanta to complete their degrees. They may have family obligations, mortgages or even full-time jobs,” said Yvette Upton, Director of Outreach and Student Affairs at GTS.
“We have promised that current students will be able to complete their degrees. My office will work closely with Atlanta colleagues to ensure that students receive the classes and support they need to complete their degrees during the phase-out period,” Upton said.
The replacement programs provide for a weak future for GTS, according to some students.
“Those programs won’t support a lively or influential campus…There will be a skeleton crew of staff, and possibly a few researchers. There won’t be any reason for students from Atlanta to come for internships, co-ops, research or anything else,” said Nate Fichtorn, CEE ’10.
GTS students have their own suggestions for how the program should have been run to be sustainable.
“The campus should have had more classes scheduled in the evenings and weekends to work for non-traditional students, and more master’s programs [should have been] similarly done,” Fichtorn said.
“[Georgia Tech] Atlanta teachers don’t care very much about [distance] learning kids,” said Douglas Ritchie, an ECE major at GTS, of the faculty members who relocate from Atlanta to Savannah to teach and to conduct research.
Still, Ritchie has appreciated the student-to-teacher ratio of GTS, as it has been much smaller than that of the Atlanta campus.
Furthermore, some students think that some current ways of conducting business will not sustain GTS.
“[Tech] has to cut costs somewhere, and they are paying teachers over $100,000 to teach five people in a class. Not a good use of money,” Ritchie said.
While the proposed changes aim to utilize the geographic placement of GTS, Fichtorn thinks the campus is too isolated.
“[The campus is] cut off from much of the community, and until [Upton] arrived, the signage was very generic and the [campus] was fairly anonymous looking,” Fichtorn said.
Still, some students preferred GTS for its relative isolation.
“I am not a fan of big cities,” Ritchie said.
Upton notes both similarities and differences between students at the Savannah and Atlanta campuses.
“Savannah students are smart, focused and driven to complete their degree in engineering from [Tech]. In some ways, I was even more impressed with the students in Savannah because they were succeeding academically without as many resources…as students in Atlanta,” Upton said.
Beyond the plan to phase out the current degree programs, some students express concern that this proposal is simply the first of many steps to eliminate the Savannah presence altogether.
“The plan laid out in the report is going to utterly hollow out the campus and leave nothing there, and then that will provide the perfect excuse to close the campus,” Fichtorn said.