Regents Adopt Bold Strategic Plan
Public Agenda Will Reshape University System in an Era of Change
Atlanta — August 14, 2013
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia adopted today a bold Strategic Plan for the System that acknowledges a new environment for public higher education and positions the state’s 31 public colleges and universities to meet changing needs and new expectations.
“We are in a ‘new normal’ when it comes to public higher education,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby said. “The old days and old ways of structuring, funding and advancing higher education are gone and will not return. Our responsibility as higher education leaders in Georgia is to seize the day and ensure the University System is structured and focused in ways that serve state needs and above all, serves students well.”
As stated in the plan, “public higher education has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Concerns about affordability are greater than ever, and pressures on quality continue to increase.” The document notes that while some have questioned the value of a college degree, data continue to show future jobs will require higher levels of education.
“As a board, we are committed to ensuring the University System is ready and able to change to meet the demands of a new era,” said Board Chair Dink NeSmith. “We are going to accelerate our commitment to educational attainment, accountability, partnerships, performance, value and global competitiveness.”
The plan notes that other large industrial nations are threatening the United State’s “long-held leadership position in higher education and number of college graduates.” As a result, the plan calls for actions that help raise educational attainment levels of Georgians in order to ensure the state can compete in a global economy.
The cornerstone of the new plan, which has the subtitle “A Public Agenda,” is Governor Nathan Deal’s and the System’s Complete College Georgia initiative, which has a goal of increasing by 2020 the percentage of Georgians completing college from 42 to 60 percent.
“We are using the theme of a public agenda because the University System exists to serve the citizens of Georgia,” said Houston Davis, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the USG. “We want parents, students, businesspeople, elected officials and others to know that the plans’ goals are really their goals and intended to help the state prosper and grow, educationally, economically, culturally and civically.”
The Plan has three “strategic imperatives” that help organize the Board and System’s efforts around the college completion effort, as well as other key goals of the regents. These imperatives are:
One: Academic Excellence and Degree Completion with actions focused on strengthening educational partnerships, increasing access and maintaining affordability, providing flexible degree options, increasing student support and ensuring the quality of learning.
Two: Economic Development and World Class Research with actions targeted on enlarging the scope of the System’s contributions to economic development, building community partnerships, expanding research efforts and graduate education and increasing international education efforts and programs.
Three: Accountability, Efficiency and Innovation with actions to develop and utilize measures of performance and accountability, seeking out new operational efficiencies, and a review of both existing and proposed programs to ensure relevance and encourage innovation.
The plan’s strategic imperatives and action steps reflect the new environment that has seen a decline in state support and a shift in who pays the bulk of the cost of college from the general public through state funding to students and families through tuition. As Huckaby has noted, the reality is state support will not return to levels matching those of years past. The plan thus focuses on how to provide a quality education and access by making significant changes in the way institutions operate.
For example, one action step under strategic imperative one calls for controlling overall costs to students by developing new affordable degree options and strengthening a cost effective, access tier of colleges. Davis said this includes minimizing some of the amenities that increasingly define, but also increase the cost of a college education.
Another action step under the second strategic imperative will direct the USG to manage its current physical space more effectively, build fewer new buildings and invest in repurposing current facilities to serve the needs of modern students.
Overall the new plan acknowledges that the pace of change in society and within higher education is increasing and thus holds the potential for significant disruptions in the current higher education model. Language in the new plan sets a clear expectation that University System leaders need to “think critically about current strategies and position the system for the challenges and opportunities that will come in the next decade.”
Davis said, “We must remain proactive to stay abreast of the rapidly changing world of public higher education, as evidenced in the fast rise of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement. This new strategic plan positions us well to not just stay abreast of change, but help shape and direct it in ways that serve our students well and protect the public’s investment in public higher education here in Georgia.”
The full Strategic Plan and Public Agenda can be accessed on the web at: http://www.usg.edu/strategicplan