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Chancellor Erroll Davis Focuses on Goals and Challenges

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Annual “State of the System” Address: University System is a Healthy, Growing Enterprise

Atlanta — January 16, 2007

Citing strong state funding support and growing enrollments, University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. informed the Board of Regents today that Georgia’s public higher education system is a “healthy, growing, dynamic enterprise,” which, however, faces a number of key challenges if its 35 colleges and universities are to meet a goal of “educating more Georgians to higher levels than in the past.”

While he noted that external help will be needed to help meet some of these challenges, Davis called upon the regents and the System’s presidents, faculty and staff to assume the key responsibility. “It is we who must do the heavy lifting,” he said.

Davis’ remarks came in the annual “State of the System” address provided each January to update the Board of Regents and University System employees, students, and constituents on the progress made and challenges ahead for Georgia’s public higher education system. Davis made his remarks at the board’s monthly meeting.

Davis, who completes his first year as chancellor next moth, and who is the first chancellor appointed from the corporate sector, had a strong customer focus in his remarks. “The bottom line is our customers want and expect us to educate them and their children well,” he said. “Expectations also are high for the System to both boost the state’s economy and provide solutions for the problems of Georgia’s communities,” Davis said.

In terms of education, Davis outlined three goals: admit more students; keep those students in college, and graduate more students. The broad plan to achieve these goals will focus on increasing access to public higher education, maintaining affordability, and providing clear accountability for the use of the resources provided to the System.

Looking ahead, Davis noted a number of key challenges with which the board and System must deal in order to meet the overall goals of admitting, retaining, and graduating more students. These include:

  • Balancing access and retention: Davis noted efforts to improve the System’s retention rates and his work with Georgia’s other education agency heads to ensure more students are prepared for postsecondary education.
  • Graduation rates: the System’s six-year graduation rate is 49 percent, but Davis said that institutions are meeting the board’s goal of improving graduation rates by one percent per year.
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity: New methods for financial reporting, new budgeting procedures and a focus on the productivity of back office operations have already begun. The System’s energetic launch of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Customer Service Initiative is being used to create an ongoing continuous improvement environment, the chancellor noted.
  • Developing a System-based strategic focus: The System’s leadership team and the Board of Regents are currently developing a strategic plan for the University System that will provide a framework for long-term action on the System’s challenges and mission.
  • Distance learning and educational technology: citing the recent report of US. Department of Education Commissioner Margaret Spellings, Davis noted that higher education has not done a good job investing in or using technology for innovation in teaching and operations. He promised a greater focus on this challenge in the coming year.
  • Keeping pace with growth: The System currently has a $3.4 billion projected need for new facilities over the next ten years. Enrollment in the System also is expected to increase by an additional 100,000 students by 2020. Davis said efforts to ensure capital needs are met and students graduate on time will be critical in managing growth.

Details of some key indicators of strength from the past year also were provided.

Overall enrollment in the System hit a record high for fall 2006 of almost 260,000 students, a 2.5 increase over fall 2005. Since 1998, the System has added 59,843 students, or an overall increase of 30 percent. “To put this in perspective, that is the equivalent of adding a University of Georgia and a Georgia State over the last eight years,” Davis said.

The current fiscal year state appropriation for the University System was $1.9 billion, which included full funding for enrollment growth and $310 million in bonds for needed facilities and repair and renovation efforts for existing buildings.

The System opened its 35th institution in fall 2006 – Georgia Gwinnett College. This institution is poised to boost not only the number of graduates produced, but also will contribute to the System’s overall economic value to the state, which in a 2006 study was estimated to be $23.3 billion annually.

Davis also cited the guaranteed tuition plan, passed by the regents in April 2006, as a significant step toward ensuring continued college affordability for Georgians.

The 18-member Board of Regents and Chancellor Davis oversee four research universities, two regional universities, 13 state universities, seven state colleges and nine two-year colleges with an annual budget of $5.3 billion. This month, the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia celebrate the 75th anniversary of their creation in 1932 by the State of Georgia.

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