University System of Georgia

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University System Chancellor Launches Graduation Task Force

Atlanta — January 21, 2004

University System of Georgia Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith today announced the formation of a Graduation Task Force to find ways to enhance how quickly students complete their degree requirements and thereby graduate more quickly.

With the appointment of the new task force, Meredith aims to develop strategies and recommendations that will enable System institutions to surpass the national average for graduating students in six years.

“This new task force will help us achieve our goal of ‘Creating a More Educated Georgia,’” said University System Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith. “As we continue to encourage more Georgians to pursue higher education, it is incumbent upon us as policy makers to enable our students to graduate in a timely fashion. By doing so, we can limit the debt they incur and help them begin to earn a solid living and contribute to Georgia’s economy.”

The Graduation Task Force will be comprised of 18 representatives from USG as well as a representative from the Georgia Department of Education. Members include the following:

  • Dr. Ron Henry, provost at Georgia State University , who will serve as chair of the task force;
  • Ms. Dianne Barlow, registrar at Middle Georgia College ;
  • Ms. Wanda Barrs, chair of the State Board of Education;
  • Dr. Linda Bleicken, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Georgia Southern University;
  • Mr. Andy Clark, director of institutional research at Macon State College;
  • Dr. Bill Dodd, associate vice president for academic affairs at Augusta State University;
  • Dr. Delmer Dunn, vice president for instruction at the University of Georgia;
  • Dr. Nancy King, vice president for student affairs at Kennesaw State University;
  • Dr. Dorothy Lord, president at Coastal Georgia Community College;
  • Dr. Melanie McClellan, vice president for student services and dean of students at the State University of West Georgia;
  • Dr. Robert McMath, vice provost for undergraduate studies and academic affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology;
  • Dr. Virginia Michelich, vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Perimeter College;
  • Ms. Arlethia Perry-Johnson, associate vice chancellor for media and publications, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia;
  • Dr. Jim Purcell, director of planning and analysis at Georgia College and State University;
  • Dr. Janis Reid, vice president for academic affairs at Atlanta Metropolitan College;
  • Dr. Martha Saunders , vice president for academic affairs at Columbus State University;
  • Dr. Pete Silver, vice president for academic affairs at Savannah State University; and
  • Dr. Larry Weill, president at Gordon College .

The nationally accepted graduation measurement is the six-year timeframe, in part due to the increasing matriculation of non-traditional students (returning adult learners) and the need for many traditional students (aged 18-24) to balance school and work to pay for tuition and living expenses.

While the University System of Georgia has seen an increase in both retention and graduation rates in recent years, the USG’s six-year graduation rates fall below the national average. Since the implementation of tougher admissions standards that were phased in over the five-year period from 1996-2002, first-time, full-time freshman retention rates in the USG leapt from 73.6 percent in 1995 to 80.7 percent in fall 2003.

However, the six-year graduation rate for all USG institutions in the aggregate only increased from 48.7 percent in Fall 1995 to 50.3 percent in Fall 2003. On an institution-specific basis, the six-year graduation rate within the USG is 43.5 percent, well below the national institution-specific rate of 54 percent. This suggests that further improvements are needed.

“Our goal is to surpass the national average and rapidly increase our graduation rates,” Meredith stated.

In addition to addressing overall graduation rates, the Graduation Task Force will probe into the disparate rates between different ethnic groups and genders. Data show that throughout the University System institutions, Asian females have the highest six-year graduation rate at nearly 65 percent. Conversely, African-American males have a six-year graduation rate of just under 24 percent. The gender disparity crosses all ethnic lines, with white females achieving a six-year graduation rate of 57.6 percent, compared to 49.5 percent for white males.

The University System enrolls a diverse population of students, with 33.1 percent of its Fall 2003 enrollment of 247,020 students representing ethnic minorities.

“We will address the needs and challenges facing all of our students, not just those of specific populations,” Meredith stated. “Graduation trend lines are a key performance indicator of student quality and outcomes. We simply must improve our effectiveness in this critical area.” The chancellor will present the group’s findings and recommendations to the Board of Regents for their consideration and action prior to implementation of any new efforts.

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