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Regents Assess Statewide Need, Outline System’s Priorities

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Atlanta — August 25, 2004

Planning for how to best absorb and serve a projected 200,000-student increase by the year 2015, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia met in retreat yesterday and today at Augusta State University to review and discuss a Statewide Assessment presented by USG Chancellor Thomas Meredith and senior administrators in the System office.

The regents dissected the study commissioned by Chancellor Meredith, titled “Statewide Assessment: The University System of Georgia in 2015.” Initially launched in October 2002, the study is aimed at documenting the change and challenges expected to impact the USG over the next decade, and “how the University System, its institutions, and its programs should be configured best to serve the state as a result of these changes.” It contains 13 specific recommendations aimed at meeting state need and tackling University System challenges and priorities.

Key recommendations proposed by the study include:

  • Remove the moratorium on “mission-change” requests by USG campuses;
  • Over the next decade, pursue $4 billion in state funding and an additional $3 billion in private funding to meet facilities needs of 46 million square feet in additional and replacement space to accommodate projected student growth;
  • Expand investment in and strategically shape the enrollment of the USG’s research universities to enhance their contribution to the state’s economic development;
  • Foster the creation of “Doctoral Research Intensive” universities; expand the number of regional universities and state colleges in the University System;
  • Consider the implementation of a more open admissions policy for the System’s state and two-year colleges;
  • Set graduation, completion and transfer rate targets for each USG institution; exceed that national average graduation rate by 2015 or sooner;
  • Over the next five years, transition the Gwinnett University Center to Gwinnett State College, with the local community serving as a financial partner in the project;
  • Remove the moratorium on name changes for USG institutions;
  • Consolidate business and administrative services at USG institutions, where appropriate;
  • Optimize the use of technology by the USG’s faculty and students to deliver the best educational programs and services;
  • Encourage campus continuing education programs to become self-sufficient; and
  • Ensure the success of the USG’s “Education–Go Get It!” initiative in raising the educational aspirations and college participation rates of Georgians.

“We can either manage the change we face or it will manage us,” stated USG Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith. “It is our responsibility to the future students we will serve that they will have access to a high-quality education. Our planning is focused on ensuring that superior academic programs, outstanding faculty, and world-class facilities exist when these thousands upon thousands of new students arrive on our campuses.”

Two critical questions helped shaped the Statewide Assessment’s direction: “How should the USG respond to the changes that will take place in Georgia through 2015?” and “How should the USG help shape the changes that will take place in Georgia through 2015?” The recommendations also evolved from the consideration of 11 “Guiding Principles” which reflect present-day realities and factual data about the University System. It also draws on data analysis, the outcomes of University System policy directives and key initiatives, and burgeoning demographic shifts in Georgia’s population.

The work group identified six key elements “deemed critical to understanding the needs for higher education in Georgia by 2015.” These six “Dimensions of Change” faced by the University System were discussed under the following groupings:

  • Population growth and composition;
  • High-school graduation rates and preparation levels;
  • Participation rates in higher education;
  • College completion rates;
  • The nature and composition of Georgia’s economy; and
  • The level of public funding available to higher education.

Key among the major changes faced by the USG is the U.S. Census Bureau projection that Georgia’s population is set to grow by about 21 percent by the year 2015, from approximately 8.2 million people to 9.9 million – with African Americans comprising more than 30 percent of the population, and Hispanic residents expected to double from 500,000 to nearly 1 million. In addition, Georgia is expected to experience the third-highest growth in high-school graduation rates in the country, especially among those students “moderately prepared” for college. The state currently ranks 49th in the U.S. in public high-school graduation rates, and 48th nationally in the percentage of 18-24 year olds attending college.

The implications of that change for the System are that approximately 200,000 students will enroll in the University System over the next 11 years, while it took from 1960 to 2003 for 200,000 students to enroll in the System. The study commits the USG to attracting, enrolling, retaining and graduating higher percentages of Georgia’s African-American, Hispanic, low-income and non-traditional students and increasing the graduation rates of all who matriculate in the state’s 34 public colleges and universities.

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