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Chancellor Meredith Delivers First State-Of-The-System Address

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Cites Record Growth In Enrollment and Increases In Student Quality

Atlanta — January 8, 2003

In his first “State of the System” address to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith cited leadership, good partnerships and strong public support as critical factors in the continued growth and progress of the System’s 34 institutions. Meredith joined the Board of Regents on Jan. 1, 2002, and during the year has visited the System’s 34 campuses. He used today’s speech to outline the System’s challenges, achievements and goals.

A key measure of the System’s progress, Meredith said, is the increase in both the numbers and quality of students. The University System of Georgia’s fall 2002 enrollment numbers hit an all-time high of 233,098 students, an increase of 7.1 percent over fall 2001. “On almost every campus, we are serving more students,” Meredith said.

The average SAT scores for first-time University System of Georgia freshmen also increased from fall of 2001 to fall of 2002, rising by four points to 1030. Three points of the increase were in math. This fall, 12 University System institutions had average SAT scores for first time freshmen above 1000. But Meredith noted that growth also is being seen in non-traditional students - students who do not attend college immediately after graduation from high school. In order to meet these students’ needs, Meredith said System officials have implemented a number of initiatives, including:

  • providing select four-year degree programs at some two-year colleges through a $1.9 million state-appropriated initiative that kicked off in August;

  • launching the African-American Male Initiative, a $200,000 state-appropriated effort to assess why African-American males attend college in lower numbers and to identify measures to increase their participation in the University System; and

  • changing Board policy to strengthen continuing education efforts with the creation of Georgia LEADS (Lifelong Education and Economic Development Services).

The speech highlighted what Meredith viewed as key challenges, accomplishments and future goals for the University System.

“The greatest challenge we face as a System is managing the growing demand for our services in this poor economic climate ?We must work with the Governor and General Assembly to make the case that what has been built must not be allowed to be torn down. Our system is the economic engine that will revive this state’s economy,” Meredith said.

Other key challenges include the drive to create a more educated Georgia and to be efficient in the use of state dollars he said. “We must increase the number of Georgians who pursue education past high school and earn a bachelor’s or advanced degree ?,” Meredith noted, “As we strive to meet this goal, we also must continue to demonstrate our ability to be efficient and effective in the use of state dollars. This is our third challenge.”

The following are some of the additional accomplishments of the University System during the past year which Meredith emphasized.

  • The number of students taking the core curriculum courses online through the eCore program continues to grow, while the System’s online WebMBA program graduated its first class in fall of 2002.

  • The System graduated its first class of teachers in 2002 under the Board’s revised teacher preparation principles.

  • During the year, the System obtained two federal grants totaling $4.4 million to support the new teacher recruitment initiative, “Destination Teaching” as well as a $3 million award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for efforts to strengthen school leaders through the new Leadership Institute.

  • The System also had a banner year with a record $795 million in grants and contracts for FY02, an increase of 15.8 percent over the previous fiscal year.

  • In addition to a revamping of the System’s approach to continuing education (noted above), the System’s Office of Economic Services and its Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) continue to provide innovative responses to state needs. The July 2002 launch of the ICAPP Health Professions Initiative represents one such innovative approach, Meredith said. The $4.55 million public/private partnership will pump more than 500 new licensed health care professionals into the state over the next two years.

  • Through ICAPP’s “Knowledge Is Power Tour,” held from April through October 2002, Meredith also conducted a tour of the state’s 12 economic regions and met with local business leaders.

  • Meredith also noted strides that have been made in increasing overall accountability. In fall of 2002, the System debuted a website, “USG by the Numbers,” which provides public access to System data.

Looking to the future, Meredith said, “We are going to see an increasing demand for our services from many constituents. Enrollment growth will continue and demands on academic programs and facilities will thus increase. We will need to be innovative in meeting this demand.”

A key to meeting new demands will be strong partnerships, Meredith said, which he promised would be an emphasis for the System. In addition, Meredith said that in a time of increased demand on services and economic uncertainty, “public higher education has an opportunity to show vision and leadership.”

Meredith cited the leadership of the University System’s 34 institutional presidents and the 16-member Board of Regents and the support of the Governor and General Assembly as instrumental in the System’s ability to fulfill its mission of teaching, research and service. He pledged that the University System would be an “active partner” in working with Governor Sonny Perdue.

“In order to create a more educated Georgia, we have to do more than just say this is important. We must demonstrate how important this is. ?As I said to our presidents, it’s not hard to be a leader when times are good. But when times are tough, that’s when great leadership will shine.”

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