One of the fastest-growing segments of the freshman class this fall at the University of North Georgia (UNG) is high school students who are taking advantage of the state's Move on When Ready program, which allows high school students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously and covers most expenses, including tuition, fees and textbooks. Dual-enrolled students must meet the same GPA and entrance exam requirements as all UNG freshmen; however, dual-enrollment courses don't count toward hours for HOPE Scholarship eligibility.
This fall, 631 high school students are taking courses at UNG through the state's Move on When Ready program, representing a 28 percent increase over the previous year. Kele Howerton, a senior at Lumpkin County High School, is taking English, algebra and astronomy.
"I decided to dual enroll at the University of North Georgia because I wanted a new academic challenge and teaching atmosphere," she said. "I think dual enrollment is a great program because it allows students to see what it's like to be part of a college class and teaches them to study independently. It's also a great opportunity for students to get college credit without having to pay for tuition or books."
UNG's Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Task Force identified a need for additional access to higher education across the region, which UNG is answering in part through Move On When Ready. UNG offers dual-enrollment courses at all five campuses and two area high schools — Union County and East Jackson, where students from three different high schools are dual-enrolled.
"At little or no cost to the students, they can accelerate their college education so that there are some students who, when they graduate from high school, come into UNG with almost their sophomore year completed. That opens up so many opportunities to them," said Chaudron Gille, interim associate provost at UNG. "It's not just 'hurry up and get out,' but they have time to pursue a double major or take a semester or a year to study abroad."
UNG expects the program to continue to grow, and the university has hired a dual enrollment coordinator and is seeking approval for additional courses, Gille said.
"We're drawing more students and we're supporting schools across the region, and they in turn are very supportive of our programs because we're able to service a larger area that wouldn't otherwise have access to higher education," Gille said. "Part of UNG's mission is to provide education to the region, and dual enrollment is providing pathways for students to achieve their educational goals."
As of Aug. 24, an unofficial head count puts UNG's overall enrollment at 17,629 students, a 6.8 percent increase over fall 2014. With the recent opening of its campus in Blue Ridge, UNG has five campuses and is one of the largest public universities in Georgia, based on enrollment. Enrollment is comparable at UNG's Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses, with 7,419 and 7,029 students, respectively. Enrollment at the other three campuses is:
- Blue Ridge - 21
- Cumming - 812
- Oconee - 2,348
The university's fall enrollment includes 3,892 new freshmen, representing 22 percent of the university's overall enrollment. This year's freshmen entering bachelor's degree programs have an average SAT score of 1111 (reading and math only) and an average high school GPA of 3.63.
Official, statewide enrollment numbers for the USG's 30 colleges and universities, including UNG, will be reported later this fall in the system's "Fall 2015 Semester Enrollment Report," which breaks down enrollment by institution; class (freshman, sophomore, etc.); race and ethnicity; in-state, out-of-state and international students; and gender and age.