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Update Posted January 27, 2014

Huckaby: Changing the System to Better Serve Students

The rising cost of a college education is a matter I take seriously. On every campus I visit a student will share the challenges of staying in school with higher tuition and fees, which may be exacerbated by a job loss at home. Sadly, in many cases, a few hundred dollars will make the difference as to whether that student stays in school. I am deeply concerned about these students, and it is why, from day one, I have emphasized the need for the university system to be more efficient to help keep tuition and fees low.

The chancellor outlined some of the initiatives that have been launched:

• Limiting tuition increases.
“For the past two years, most students have benefited from the lowest increases in a decade. This is true at all institutions, except the research universities.”

With regard to tuition, let me digress a moment to address a recent State Audit that reviewed use of out-of-state tuition waivers. As a result of this review the Board of Regents is examining its current policies to ensure that out-of-state tuition waivers are appropriately managed. But I want to unequivocally quash the notion that the value of tuition waivers represents foregone tuition income. That notion assumes that those students would enroll in USG institutions anyway and pay the full out-of-state tuition.

There are not many things that I can guarantee to you will not happen, but that is one of them. In fact, just the opposite will happen; we will lose both students and revenue.

• Limiting fees.
“We have instructed presidents not to request fee increases unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, the number of approved mandatory fee increases has dropped from 67 in FY12 to 29 in FY14.”

• Lowering the cost of textbooks.
“Our staff, working with the University Press of North Georgia, has published an open-source electronic history textbook that potentially saves each USG eCore History student almost $100; similar efforts are underway for other disciplines as well.”

• Using our space more efficiently.
“Our space utilization study immediately influenced the University System’s budget request for the construction of new buildings. For FY2015, we requested only two new buildings.”

“An increased commitment to our MRR program is not only financially and academically prudent; it is essential to our efforts to meet our stewardship responsibilities.”

• Institutional Consolidation.
“We must keep our focus on the legitimate needs of our students and the faculty who teach them. That is the ultimate purpose of consolidation – move money out of administration and into the classroom.”

“It is hypocritical to talk about the ‘New Normal’ for public higher education, yet continue to do everything the same old way while expecting different results.

• Increasing economic development efforts.
“To better coordinate and focus the teaching and research achievements of our faculty, we have hired a new vice chancellor of Economic Development and the board has established a standing committee on economic development.”

• Increasing online education.
“Since 2009, the number of online courses offered by USG institutions rose from 1,571 to 4,737, an increase of 200 percent.”

• Reaching out to the military.
“We’ve established a director of Military Affairs in the System Office and our schools are working to expand on-campus, on base, and online programs to better serve our military citizens. For example, our Soldiers2Scholars program has helped to establish military outreach centers on 22 of our campuses.”

• Strengthening teacher preparation.
“Working with the Department of Education and the Professional Standards Commission, we are launching a professional and objective evaluation of our teacher education programs. This evaluation will have consequences; ultimately the graduates of those programs who do not perform at a high level will not receive a teaching certificate and the teacher education programs in our institutions graduating those students will not be allowed to continue.”

“It has become fashionable to question the value of college. When I have the opportunity to speak to high school students, I warn them not to listen to the “siren song” that college is not of value. It is a song that ill-serves the individual and the collective society.

The truth is just the opposite. We live in a time when labor surveys indicate that in the near future, two-thirds of the working age population will need some level of post-secondary credential to compete for jobs.

A McKenzie Global Institute analysis projects that by 2020 the world’s advanced economies may face a shortfall of more than 16-18 million college-educated workers.

And a person with a bachelor’s degree can expect to have lifetime earnings of nearly $2.3 million, compared to $1.3 million for a high school diploma.

Put another way, a college education yields 74 percent more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma. One sure way to increase state revenues and hold the line on taxes is through our work to help more students earn a degree.

While there is a proven financial value to college for the individual and for our state, there is equal or greater value of having an educated and informed citizenry.

In these ways mentioned this afternoon the University System of Georgia is becoming a more student-centered system. These are times of great opportunity for us in higher education to rethink and restructure how we serve students and the larger society. We are committed to this course.

We are not ignoring our challenges. We are tackling them.

We are making some decisions that are not easy or comfortable, but they are the right decisions for our students and the State of Georgia.

We are reshaping public higher education in Georgia.

Posted by Sonja Roberts
Published in: Academics

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