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University System Chancellor says focus must be on students

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Annual address looks at University System through student needs

Atlanta — February 13, 2013

In his annual address on the state of the University System of Georgia, Chancellor Hank Huckaby turned the occasion into comments about the “State of the Student.”

Measuring the state of the student is a more precise means of determining the state of the University System, Huckaby said. By this measure, “The University System is on the right path to drive access, ensure progress and increase success for our students,” he said.

Huckaby outlined for the Board of Regents how the system is changing and must continue to change to meet the evolving needs of students in a new era of tight resources.

“We must prepare our students to find their way in a new world,” Huckaby said. “We help them best by providing the access they need, by removing barriers and providing them with education of value that equips them to compete and contribute.”

While thanking Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly for their continued, strong support of public higher education during tough economic times, Huckaby also acknowledged the responsibility of the University System to think and act differently to achieve its mission of creating a more highly educated Georgia.

Huckaby said that the “new normal” requires that those leading the University System and its 31 institutions must “explore different alternatives to the ones followed since we were created in 1932.” He said, “We are not going to be successful simply waiting for change. We must and we are driving some fundamental changes to our structure and to how we deliver higher education.”

He outlined a number of the changes already taking place in the University System, but also noted that these represent “the down payment on what we must do to ensure the University System is structured and managed to best serve students and the state.

“We are going to continue to use performance, partnerships and value to frame our decisions and drive needed change,” he said.

Therefore, under his chancellorship, there is a continuing focus on how to better serve the System’s 315,000 students and to create access, encourage progress toward graduation, and help students achieve success by completing college.

As evidence of the type of changes underway, Huckaby cited the recently completed consolidation of eight institutions into four, a study of how physical space is used, a review of how to deliver online education more consistently and broadly and the new relationship with the Technical College System of Georgia.

He also noted that change is taking shape in Georgia’s comprehensive approach to college completion through the Complete College Georgia initiative and its ambitious goal to add an additional 250,000 college graduates to restock the state’s workforce.

Other areas receiving closer attention are tuition and fees, a new approach that integrates academic programs, budgets and facilities in order to meet state needs more efficiently, the System’s role in the state’s economic development efforts, and how the state funds higher education.

Huckaby said it is important that all recognize that in today’s world, “we do not have the resources to provide every student with every program, everywhere in Georgia.”

But, he pointed out that there had never been a time when this was completely possible. Today, however, Huckaby said that technology and other developments give higher education a new means of broadening access and increasing educational options for students, but only by changing the traditional delivery model.

“We have to be much wiser in how we use the dollars students and taxpayers provide us to create a responsive System that meets the needs of students and the state in an efficient way and in an effective way,” Huckaby said. The initiatives underway reflect this new approach to become more efficient and maintain high quality, he said.

Supportive leadership is essential to the success of the changes underway, Huckaby said, acknowledging the responsive engagement of USG presidents, faculty and staff and the support of the regents.

“We have a strong system of 31 colleges and universities that have the talent and the resources – and the will – to adapt, to establish new traditions and create new paths for our students,” Huckaby said.

The full text of Huckaby’s remarks can be accessed at: http://www.usg.edu/chancellor/speeches/chancellors_state_of_the_student_address_2013

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