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UNG plans to increase college graduates

POSTED: March 28, 2013 12:12 a.m.

The University of North Georgia has a plan to improve student success and increase the number of college graduates in North Georgia by 2020.

A crowd of more than 100 educators, administrators, students, business leaders and community members gathered Wednesday afternoon for a briefing on the university’s plans for fulfilling the goals of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia initiative.

The initiative aims to increase the number of college graduates in the state to 60 percent by 2020. The increase would add an additional 250,000 college graduates to the Georgia workforce by 2020.

Georgia is one of 30 states committed to increasing the number of students who earn post-secondary degrees as part of the Complete College America Alliance.

The executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the University System of Georgia, Houston Davis, discussed the initiative’s goals and the impact higher education will have on individuals and the state.

“There are a lot of entities that are important to the state of Georgia and its future,” Davis said. “But as we look at the next 50, 75, 100 years ... there is no entity in this state that is more important to this state’s future than higher education.”

Davis presented several charts emphasizing how the educational needs and expectations of employers have changed over the years.

He cited a 2010 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce, which noted a high school education or less in 1973 met the requirements of nearly 75 percent of the jobs in the nation. That number dropped to almost 40 percent by 2007 and is expected to be about 30 percent by 2018.

Currently only 42 percent of Georgians hold some form of post-secondary education including certificates, associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. If the state continues on its current path, 43 percent of Georgians will hold degrees or certifications in 2020.

Davis said it may be difficult for some to get over the “high school is good enough world view” but the educational end point should be moved to the college level if the state wants to continue to grow.

“Georgia’s future is so linked to having a healthy university college system that if we don’t get these next 20 years right ... Georgia will fall behind,” Davis said.

UNG plans to build on previous efforts to promote student success and increase retention and graduation rates. The plan addresses five major strategies: improving college readiness through kindergarten through 12th-grade partnerships; expanding access and completion, particularly for underserved populations; reducing the time it takes to earn a college degree; developing new models of instruction and learning; and transforming remediation.

In addition to encouraging current students to stay in school and complete their degrees, the university is looking to increase the use of technology and online learning to attract students, opportunities to facilitate transfer between schools, and the use of prior learning assessments to give college credits to those who have significant life experiences that traditionally have not been factored into a student’s potential.

The Complete College Georgia initiative is also seeking to assist those adults who may have some college credits but who have not earned a degree to return to college to complete it.

At UNG, there are various programs and services available to adults returning to college, including thousands of veterans in the Northeast Georgia region.

Part of the university’s plan included helping students navigate the often-confusing process of applying for financial aid and student loans. The university also intends to increase the amount of scholarships available to students.

Al Panu, senior vice president for University Affairs and UNG’s lead administrator on Complete College Georgia, encouraged the audience to work together “to move the needle where we want it to be.”

“The completion agenda is bigger than any one entity. It is going to take partnership and collaboration to achieve this goal,” Panu said. “We conceived this plan a little more than a year ago and we have put some aspects of the plan into action and others will be forthcoming. We want your help and your feedback as we move forward.”

Davis praised the university for its successful consolidation of the former Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University.

He said the university has “an incredibly rich future” because of the work it is doing now.


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