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Public Colleges Finalize Plans to Help More Georgians Earn Degrees

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Atlanta — September 10, 2012

Complete College Georgia (CCG) – Gov. Nathan Deal’s initiative to increase the numbers of Georgians earning a degree – reached another milestone today with the release of a report with specific plans by institutions in both the University System of Georgia (USG) and Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).

The campus plans detail exactly how the ambitious goal of adding an additional 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state’s rolls by 2020 is going to be met. As institutions begin to implement the plans, higher education officials point out that they will receive continued assistance to improve the plans and will be held accountable for progress.

“The plans are a signal of the immense effort to date, a renewed and strengthened focus on access and graduation, and a commitment to continue and expand the work over the coming years,” said Lynne Weisenbach, the USG’s vice chancellor for Educational Access and Success, who is leading the CCG efforts in the University System. “Increasing Georgia’s college completion rate is not something that can be changed overnight and is about the learning process to continually improve and find what works.”

Weisenbach said that throughout the University System, many efforts will have a positive affect on college affordability by shortening the time to degree, lessening the likelihood a student may stop-out temporarily from their education, and providing options so students may attend school while working, serving their country and raising a family.

University System institutions have built upon localized partnerships with K-12 schools, TCSG, businesses, and foundations in developing the plans. “This is about serving and working with the local community and in many cases Complete College Georgia gives institutions a new avenue to reach out and build on those relationships,” said Weisenbach.

In the executive summary of the Complete College Georgia plan, the authors noted that the campus plans address a number of components that, taken together, will work to increase access to college and college completion. These are:

• Better data collection and analysis to identify strengths and areas for improvement as well as the needs of various regions and populations;

• Increased partnerships with K-12 to improve college readiness for students out of high school;

• The improvement of access to college and graduation for all students;

• The reduction of the time it takes to earn a college degree;

• The development of new models of instruction and learning for students;

• The transformation of remediation.

The campus plans also look at different ways to use technology and online learning to attract new student populations, the ease with which students can transfer between systems and institutions, and the use of prior learning assessment to give college credits to those who have significant life experiences that traditionally have not been factored into a student’s potential.

In the metro Atlanta area, all of the USG’s institutions are participating in Complete College Georgia. Here are highlights of the ways in which these institutions – as well as all of the University System’s 35 colleges and universities – will be tackling the college completion goals.

• To accommodate the diverse needs and schedules of students, Atlanta Metropolitan State College will implement more flexible scheduling and program options to fit into student’s lives. These measures include various start times allowing students to choose from course lengths between 5 to 12 weeks as well as different start times within the semester. This flexibility will diminish common scheduling barriers to degree completion.

Clayton State University, as with other institutions, is phasing in a variety of information technology tools to monitor individual student progress. Through predictive analytics looking across a student’s educational career, the institution will be able to more effectively and efficiently intervene and aid at-risk students, especially in the important first-year of study.

Georgia Gwinnett College, as an access-oriented institution, enrolls a substantial number of students who sometimes require extra support to succeed in college-level courses. Through the setting of targets for first-year retention rates and expansion of new models for remediation and learning support in English and Math, Georgia Gwinnett is positioned to expand access for students while also improving success toward graduation. Early data from a project supported by Complete College America shows students are more likely to succeed in a setting where remediation is provided at the same time as college-level courses.

Georgia Institute of Technology is supporting the important expansion of the pipeline of qualified students entering college by providing leadership and technical expertise to increase the number of K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teachers. The “Tech to Teaching” and “Teach for Georgia” programs provide opportunities for Georgia Tech graduates to enter science and math K-12 classrooms across the state.

Georgia Perimeter College will continue to support the needs of its adult and military student population through the development of a prior learning assessment program. This program will recognize student achievements and learning from non-traditional outlets and award college credit for this experience. This will reduce the duplication of courses students take, ultimately shortening the time to a degree and reducing costs.

• The historical record shows significant numbers of college freshmen with HOPE lose the scholarship in the first year of college. Georgia State University aims to raise the retention rate of HOPE scholarship recipients through expansion of the Keep Hope Alive Program, which provides a small bridge scholarship for two semesters to students who lost their HOPE scholarship due to academic standing. For these students, without the support of HOPE, their likelihood of graduating diminishes significantly. However, with the Keep Hope Alive Program, the retention rate of HOPE recipients has risen from 49 percent to 68 percent and is anticipated to have continued success with the financial support of the Goizueta Foundation and Cola-Cola Foundation.

• Georgia has one of the fastest growing Latino/a populations in the county. Kennesaw State University will expand its promising “graduation coach” initiative that initially focused on Latinos. The program is a new service and organization model to streamline the support to counsel students on scheduling, curriculum, and financial aid. Such additional support helps to reduce the likelihood a student may leave the institution without a complete education.

Southern Polytechnic State University is building on its important relationship with the technical college system to expand access to and create new pathways toward STEM education. The institution has set a goal to double to 500 students enrollment in these flexible degree programs that allow TCSG students at partner institutions to seamlessly continue onto the Bachelor¹s level and complete their degree through a variety of on-campus and on-line options.

The University of Georgia maintains a six-year graduation rate ahead of its peer institutions. However, through ConnectUGA and a renewed emphasis on graduation through Complete College Georgia, UGA will build out its data analytics capacity and improve understanding of differences between those who complete college sooner rather than later, focusing on four and five-year graduation rates. This will enable faculty and staff to address the specific issues affecting those students who are taking longer to graduate and thus who are at greater risk of not completing college.

The full Complete College Georgia report is available online at: http://www.usg.edu/educational_access/documents/USG_Campus_Completion_Plans.pdf

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