More than 100 people gathered at the University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus on Wednesday afternoon to hear the university's plans for increasing the number of Georgians completing college.
Complete College Georgia was announced by Gov. Nathan Deal as a statewide initiative in the wake of a 2011 study by Georgetown University that found Georgia will need to increase the percentage of its population with some level of college completion from a current 42 percent to 60 percent to meet projected workforce needs. The result is an ambitious goal of adding 250,000 postsecondary graduates to Georgia’s workforce by 2020. UNG and the other 30 member institutions of the University System of Georgia (USG) crafted their completion plans in 2012 and have begun enacting various strategies as part of the initiative.
In his keynote speech at Wednesday's briefing, Dr. Houston Davis, USG executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, stressed how important the Complete College Georgia initiative is to Georgians and the future of the state.
"This isn't about educational attainment just for the sake of educational attainment. This is an imperative for the state of Georgia, if we want to continue being healthy economically, culturally and socially," Davis said. "If we want the people of our state to be able to realize their full potential, this completion agenda is something that we absolutely have got to work for, because it is about positioning the state for the future."
Davis had high praise for the UNG's work in increasing student success and the university's plans to increase the education level across the north Georgia region. He noted that UNG brings great assets and a breadth of opportunities to students and the Complete College Georgia effort because it is able to offer a range of programs – from certificates to doctoral degrees.
"I can't thank this university enough for the work that you've done, both on consolidation and your completion plan. Your plan was one of the ones held up as exemplary in the USG's peer review process," Davis said. "We really are proud to have the University of North Georgia as a partner in this, and I believe you are going to serve as a model for many of the schools in the university system."
Key to raising the education level of the state's workforce, Davis said, involves targeting the future workforce by ensuring high school graduates are ready for college, and targeting the existing workforce by helping adult learners finish or earn college degrees and certificates. Achieving these goals means cooperation between all levels of education in the state—public and private colleges and universities, the Technical College System of Georgia, and kindergarten through 12th grade, Houston said.
Dr. Al Panu, senior vice president for University Affairs and UNG's lead administrator on Complete College Georgia, echoed Davis’ sentiments in wrapping up the briefing that included members of the community and business leaders.
"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."
The UNG plan builds 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 12-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, UNG 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. At UNG, there are various programs and services available to support adults returning to college, including thousands of veterans in the northeast Georgia region.
For more information about the University of North Georgia's Complete College Georgia plan, please visit ung.edu/completecollegegeorgia.