University System of Georgia

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Access To Higher Education a Top Board Priority

Atlanta — October 10, 2001

The degree of access Georgians have to public higher education will be a key focus of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, as the 16-member governing body begins to develop the actions that will support its new phase of strategic planning.

During its October meeting, held on the campus of Gainesville College, the regents began a discussion on the public policy questions surrounding increased access to public higher education. Guided by this discussion, the System Office staff will prepare specific recommendations.

Papp identified several key issues for the Board’s consideration, including:

  • how to provide programs in areas where they are needed if such programs aren’t financially viable;
  • whether or not up front financial support should be provided, and if so, for how long;
  • when should centers be included in new facilities requests; and
  • the means by which two-year colleges can recoup the financial costs of new programs.

Of the 11 new goals adopted by the board during its Sept. meeting, increasing access to the University System by non traditional students is a high priority of the Board of Regents.

For example, studies of two group’s college participation rates - adult students and African-American males - show that Georgia compares poorly with other states and national averages. A report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “Measuring Up 2000,” found that Georgia ranks near the bottom of all states in the participation of students of working age. It ranks next to last in the percentage of students who enroll in college within four years of high school graduation. In terms of African-American males, University System of Georgia data indicates that for every two African-American females enrolled, there is only one African-American male enrolled.

“The question before the board is ‘how do we best advance this goal of increased access?’” said Daniel Papp, senior vice chancellor for Academic and Fiscal Affairs, who led the presentation. “On one end of the spectrum is the “market forces” philosophy – let the market dictate how we concentrate our limited resources to increase college participation. On the other end, we can choose to offer the broadest possible access throughout the state – regardless of the level of need or demand. The board’s role is to determine our stance in this debate, and its financial impact.”

To guide the Board’s discussion, Papp outlined several methods of increasing access currently underway at some of the System’s institutions. One program allows four-year colleges and universities to offer specific bachelor’s degree programs at two-year colleges. Currently eight four-year institutions offer 38 such bachelor degree programs at eight two-year colleges in Georgia.

Another path is through the creation of “off campus centers” in areas remote from a public college or university, but with significant populations. University System colleges and universities may offer single courses or entire degree programs at such off-campus sites, including locations such as military installations, Department of Technical and Adult Education colleges, public schools, and corporate sites.

To illustrate successful applications of these two methods, Papp was joined in his presentation to the board by President Martha Nesbitt of Gainesville College and President Nathaniel Hansford of North Georgia College & State University. The two presidents provided details on successful programs operated by their institutions.

Nesbitt highlighted Gainesville College’s experience in serving as a host institution for a four-year university providing degrees on her two-year college campus and identified the challenges and opportunities in these arrangements. At Gainesville, students can choose from 10 four-year degree programs offered either by North Georgia College & State University or Southern Polytechnic State University. More than 300 students are enrolled in the programs, which enhance access for students, Nesbitt noted, while reflecting the changing needs of students and the fast-changing needs of local communities and businesses. In addition, the flexibility of such programs makes the fullest use of the System’s resources. Finally, such programs provide a strong incentive and opportunity for students to begin their college work at two-year institutions.

“These initiatives promote the University System’s vision by expanding access and creating a more educated Georgia,” Nesbitt said.

Hansford outlined for the Board an off-campus center program developed in Forsyth County, a cooperative effort between North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville College. In its first year, 22 courses were offered to more than 200 students through the center - 150 of this total are first-time University System enrollees.

“The Forsyth County Center is a cooperative effort to provide college courses to one of the fastest-growing areas of the state,” Hansford said. “It has been a great success in its first year because of the cooperation of the community leaders and North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville College.”

Over the coming months, the Board will continue to discuss and refine its Strategic Plan, with the timetable calling for final approval in June 2002.

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