College 2025

Adaptability, Essential Skills, Lifelong Learning & Partnerships


Community, Governmental, Corporate Business, Alumni, Friend, Parent, Political, K-12

Fostering relationships with industry, k-12 and higher education partners strengthens USG programs and increases opportunities for students. This is especially true in underserved markets, where additional access points can provide new options for students who may not have otherwise considered them.

USG will encourage and facilitate these relationships through policy and practice, following guidelines provided by the administration and the Board of Regents.

For universities to meet the demands of the future, they must develop robust partnerships that will support the essential work of the university. Universities have successfully partnered with communities to bring services and activities to residents, but this partnership has been relatively focused. And, while universities have successfully partnered with business and industry to develop research and innovation projects, partnerships which support the educational agenda of universities has lagged. Some of the cause for this rests with the university itself. Heretofore, higher education, in particular curriculum and teaching, has been insular and not greatly influenced by corporate or community partners. Universities must do a better job of listening to business and community partners if they are to be relevant into the future.

Expansion of Current Relationships

Currently, many colleges and universities across the country are working with the private sector to build business models which allow them to provide state-of-the-art facilities that are in high demand by students. These partnerships, commonly referred to as P-3 projects (public-private-projects), are likely to expand and grow in the future and have developed as states have withdrawn funding to provide bricks-and-mortar projects (Jordan, Shorter & Westfall, 2013; MacErlean, 2017).

The future is likely to find partnerships between institutions and business and industries which address the affordability and accessibility challenges presented to many students who find it necessary to work while going to school. For example, some institutions, in partnership with select industries, offer university or college credit for functions the student has learned while on the job. This makes achieving a college degree based upon credit hour production more attainable for a student. Indeed, some business and industry see the value of higher education and find ways to add support of university or college training as a benefit for employees. Interestingly, employers have found that adding this benefit leads to employee retention — and institutions have found that these students are more likely to persist and complete their degrees as well (Carlson, 2017).

Future partnerships between institutions and businesses may find themselves delving into the most heretofore “sacred elements” of higher education. While current partnerships have been limited to non-educational areas, the future is likely to find creative and collaborative educational models which transform curriculum, according to Michael King (2015) writing for the Harvard Business Review. He states, “providing experience-based and practical learning is critical to address the current performance gaps. Integral to this is building and expanding partnerships between academia and the private sector to create a more valuable education ecosystem” (King, 2015). Therefore, future partnerships are likely to impact curricular content and pedagogical approach in order to produce a graduate who is ready to work upon graduation.

Working Together

While institutional partnerships with business and industry are likely to expand, it is also likely that coalitions of institutions will form stronger partnerships and ties to provide efficiencies to meet the ever-increasing costs associated with providing their product. The USG has been a prominent pioneer in online education, bringing a consortium of schools together to achieve economies of scale offering online courses and online degree programs. The future will see higher education and k-12 systems employing systemwide and collective-impact partnerships to create a coordinated statewide educational ecosystem. In fact, the future may find that the differences between higher education institutions is less about the education, which will be very similar and common, and more about the unique experience generated by the particular institutions.

As disruption continues to press higher education to reinvent itself, the future is likely to find yet different kinds of partnerships forming (New, 2016). Groups and coalitions are forming to support and influence support for various higher education functions. For example, the Association of Governing Boards has recently called for a new type of “partnership” to support higher education. The Guardians Initiative is one example of an action council being created to diffuse some of the negative criticism aimed at higher education and impact public support of colleges and universities (AGB, The Guardians Initiative, 2018).

Institutions have partnered to bring services and activities to communities. As state funding decreases, communities, corporations and private funders may need to provide more support. Institutions need partnerships from business and industry to assist in the classroom and to help develop essential/employable skills. Indeed, there is a need for partnerships to support training and education of students through scholarships, etc. and for partnerships which will provide workforce-related training for students through co-ops, mentorships, internships and on-site training.


USG will achieve this by:

  • Encouraging the creation of nexus degree programs at USG institutions.
  • Expanding student opportunities for experiential learning with industry, using an apprenticeship model as a guide.
  • Developing business and industry partnerships that support the educational agenda.
  • Employing systemwide and collective impact techniques to create a statewide coordinated educational ecosystem.

Case Studies

  • American Council on Education: Common Course Agreement
    The American Council on Education (ACE), in partnership with the Department of Defense, administers a program designed to provide college and university credit based upon military experiences and training. The ACE military evaluation is a process conducted by a team of teaching faculty from relevant disciplines representing a wide array of colleges and universities. The team reviews the military courses or occupations and determines if the content, scope and rigor of the activity in question meets the challenge of college credit. Credit recommendations are made on the military transcript, and the credit transferred is the sole discretion of the college or university.

  • Various: Employer-College partnerships
    Two major US private employers have recently partnered with institutions of higher education to provide their employees access and financial assistance to a college degree:


    In partnership with Arizona State University, the Starbucks Coffee Company offers all company partners who work an average of 20 hours per week an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree at ASU’s online degree program. In this unique partnership, Starbucks Partner employees receive an initial College Achievement Plan scholarship which pays for 42 percent of tuition costs provided by ASU. Starbucks will then reimburse for the remaining tuition and fees not covered at the end of each semester. Starbucks hopes to assist at least 25,000 employee/partners achieve their degree by 2025.


    If employees will major in business or supply chain, Walmart has offered employees the option to pay $1 each day to participate in degree acquisition from one of three approved nonprofit colleges. The company has agreed to cover the remaining cost for tuition, books and fees. The partnership between Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, and the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University will create a path for low-cost to debt-free college for these employees who take advantage of the program. Another partner in the program is Guild Education, which administers the education benefit. Guild provides enrollment and success coaches to assist students/employees to navigate the higher education landscape and provide advice on managing work and school.

  • Valdosta State University: Center for South Georgia Regional Impact
    The Center for South Georgia Regional Impact was created in 2018 as part of Valdosta State University’s new strategic plan, which focuses on increasing student success and opportunities for experiences outside the classroom, as well as the development of resources for communities in the region. At VSU, students work closely with expert faculty to get hands on experience in identifying solutions to the issues facing the region, including the institution’s 41-county service area. These experiences provide a talented workforce of VSU alumni and establish Valdosta State University as the flagship institution of higher education in South Georgia.

  • Houston: Houston GPS
    Houston GPS is designed to improve the process of transition from community college into a four-year university by creating an educational ecosystem around the Houston metropolitan area. The network includes the University of Houston System together with six regional community colleges, all of which have agreed to an integrated set of strategies designed to increase and accelerate student completion. Students in the program are assigned structure pathways and, based upon high school performance and interests, are provided meta majors. They must secure permission to take courses off of their schedule. Milestone or prerequisite courses are assigned each semester, and intrusive advising ensures that students see an advisor regularly. The project has resulted in higher graduation rates and increased on-time graduation, a closing of the achievement gap and fewer lost credits which has resulted in a savings of time and money.

  • Indianapolis: INDY Achieves
    INDY Achieves is a program sponsored by the city of Indianapolis to meet the ever-changing job market expectations and needs of the city. It also ensures that Indianapolis citizens have the ability to pursue a post-secondary certificate or credential which might place them on the pathway to middle class. The program focuses on increasing student access to financial aid and providing the student with an understanding of the educational options available. A robust partnership between Ivy Tech, IUPUI, the city of Indianapolis and philanthropic agencies has created this collaborative. INDY Achieves Scholarships are provided for students to study in high-demand fields, and students must meet clearly specified criteria designed to move them toward retention and completion. In addition, completion grants are provided for students who have completed 75% of their coursework.

  • Lumina Foundation: Beyond Financial Aid
    Beyond Financial Aid is a project funded by the Lumina Foundation. It features a toolkit designed to assist two- and four-year colleges and universities to help students with low income challenged by limited resources to overcome these challenges and move toward degree attainment. Beyond Financial Aid encourages colleges and universities to pursue five strategies to assist students with low incomes. Colleges and universities must seek to know students who are economically challenged, review internal processes and organize support systems for these students, build internal and external partnerships to support students, optimize students’ use of services made available and create an institutional culture of support. For example, Georgia State University has provided Panther Retention Grants designed to assist financially challenged students to move forward and make progress in the degree-earning process. GSU is using specific data criteria designed to identify these students in need. Additionally, students sign a contract and meet with a counselor to develop a plan to fund completion of their education. As a result, over 70 percent of seniors who receive these grants graduate within two semesters.