Columbus State Among Public Universities Helping More Georgians Earn Degrees

quoteCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Gov. Nathan Deal’s initiative to increase the number of Georgians earning a degree reached another milestone today with the release of a report with specific plans by Columbus State University and other institutions in both the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia.

The plans detail how to meet the ambitious goal of adding an additional 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state’s rolls by 2020.

For Columbus State University, that translates into a goal of increasing the number of students completing degree programs by 18 percent by the year 2020. This equates to 1,400 students within various programs or about 200 additional graduates every year for seven years.

As institutions begin to implement the plans, higher education officials point out that they will receive continued assistance to improve the plans and will be held accountable for progress.

“The plans are a signal of the immense effort to date, a renewed and strengthened focus on access and graduation, and a commitment to continue and expand the work over the coming years,” said Lynne Weisenbach, the USG vice chancellor who’s leading the system’s Complete College Georgia efforts. “Increasing Georgia’s college completion rate is not something that can be changed overnight and is about the learning process to continually improve and find what works.”

Weisenbach said that many USG efforts will have a positive affect on college affordability by shortening the time to degree, lessening the likelihood a student may temporarily stop taking classes and providing options so students may attend school while working, serving their country and raising a family.

University System of Georgia institutions have built upon localized partnerships with K-12 schools, technical colleges, businesses and foundations in developing the plans.

“This is about serving and working with the local community and in many cases Complete College Georgia gives institutions a new avenue to reach out and build on those relationships,” Weisenbach said.

In the executive summary of the Complete College Georgia plan, the authors noted that the campus plans address a number of components that, taken together, will work to increase access to college and college completion. These are:

  • Better data collection and analysis to identify strengths and areas for improvement as well as the needs of various regions and populations.
  • Increased partnerships with K-12 schools to improve college readiness for high school graduates.
  • Better access to college and graduation for all students.
  • Reducing the time to earn a college degree.
  • Developing new learning and instruction models.
  • Transforming remediation for students who need help.

At Columbus State, several initiatives are already under way.

“The governor’s initiative prompted us to take a close look at our processes, how we do things and what kind of barriers there are to students trying to access and complete our degree programs,” said Tom Hackett, CSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “To come up with individual goals, groups from across campus met earlier this year under the leadership of our faculty center to develop new ideas and recommendations to support the goals of the governor and the Complete College Georgia plan to develop the innovators who create the jobs of the future”

Some of the plans for Columbus State University include:

  • Beefing up the Early College program, a partnership with Muscogee County School District to provide college courses for students in the Early College Academy of Columbus.
  • Increasing the number of highly-qualified secondary education teachers to meet the demand for  science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers through the UTeach Columbus Program.
  • Establishing flexible course offerings to meet the needs of various student populations, including early morning and late evening courses; five- and eight-week offerings; and weekend courses.
  • Developing or revising articulation agreements with two-year and technical colleges to make for seamless transitions for students admitted to Columbus State.
  • Training faculty and staff to make use of new initiatives that identify and refer students in need of academic support.
  • Creating a “dashboard” to track data that will support Complete College Georgia and Complete College CSU initiatives.

“These initiatives are all part of our academic priorities to attract more academically qualified students, keep them in school, and enable them to graduate to successful careers,” Hackett said. “Complete College Georgia is consistent with what we have been doing, such as raising our minimum academic standards, and starting freshman-year experience classes. Ultimately, the students will benefit, but so will our community and our country because it is the universities and colleges that are at the heart of creativity and innovation that has driven the U.S. economy.”

The full Complete College Georgia report is available online at http://www.usg.edu/educational_access/documents/USG_Campus_Completion_Plans.pdf.

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