External Affairs Division

University System of Georgia has among the nation’s largest increases in college completion rates

Atlanta — March 5, 2020

Georgia has experienced among the largest increases in the nation for six-year college completion rates, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The center released the data as part of its Completing College State Report, which tracked completion rates across five consecutive cohorts of first-time college students (2009-2013).

Over the last five years, the data show Georgia is up nine percentage points to 61% of students completing their degrees within six years of enrolling. Georgia over that same time period moved up 10 places to #20 in the state-by-state rankings.

“It has never been more important for Georgia to build a world-class workforce ready to take on the jobs of the 21st century,” Governor Brian P. Kemp said. “Hardworking Georgians who finish a postsecondary education allow us to do just that, helping improve the economy and keep the state’s No. 1 ranking in the nation for business. I’m especially grateful for all the University System of Georgia has done to increase college completion rates and solidify Georgia’s reputation for being a great place for public higher education.”

“Degree attainment is among the University System of Georgia’s top priorities, and USG over the last several years has made a dedicated effort to use data-driven strategies focused on improving student success,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “This increase in completion rates for our students is a direct result of the hard work of faculty and staff across all of USG’s 26 colleges and universities.”

According to the report, the national six-year completion rate reached 60% in 2019 for the 2013 entering cohort, a new high since it began tracking such data nine years ago.

Georgia’s performance in the data puts it above the national completion rate. The new report comes as USG has experienced a nearly 24% increase since 2011 in the number of students earning degrees annually.

“This increase could not have happened without a laser focus on finding ways to enable more students to earn college credentials of value,” said Dr. Tristan Denley, USG Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “But we are certainly not resting on our laurels, as we are continuing to develop and implement innovations to build on these improvements to student success and keep the momentum growing.”

Based in part on that improvement and ongoing student success work, USG has also been recognized as the 2019-2020 Exceptional Agency by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Among the highest honors given by the association, the award recognizes USG’s leadership, dedication and innovation in state higher education policy and administration.

USG initiatives focused on increasing college attainment levels include:

  • 15 to Finish: All campuses encourage students to take 15 credit hours a semester, shortening the time it takes to graduate and helping improve graduation rates.
  • Early-alert system/predictive analytics: A dip in student performance signals faculty and staff to step in and provide help.
  • Degree roadmaps: Advisors help students avoid spending time and money in courses that do not count toward their degree.
  • Corequisite remediation: Students at all our campuses who arrive unprepared for college-level English and math are directly enrolled in regular, for-credit classes and receive focused tutoring — a new approach to teaching remedial courses that has seen pass rates jump from the teens to 70%.
  • Momentum Year: A data-driven suite of strategies designed to help all USG students in their crucial first year of college. Beginning last fall, no first-year student can be undecided. Instead, they must take a minimum of three courses in a selected major or academic focus area. All of our institutions have aligned these areas with their degree programs, making it easier for these students to explore their interests. First-year students on every USG campus must also take core English and math courses and are encouraged to take 30 credit hours for the full year. Our institutions are prioritizing course scheduling to make sure critical classes are available to students who need them.
  • General Education Curriculum: To ensure our graduates enter the workforce with competitive skills for the 21st century, we are updating and modernizing our core curriculum.
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