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USG grant will help track use of academic support services


The University of North Georgia (UNG) has received a $23,750 grant from the University System of Georgia (USG) for a project that will track the use and effectiveness of academic support services. The project is one of the first funded as a USG Complete College Georgia Incubator project and aims to help students who are struggling academically to complete their degrees.

The USG Incubator is a competitive program to identify and support promising campus ideas aligned to the work of Complete College Georgia, a statewide initiative with the goal of adding 250,000 postsecondary graduates to Georgia’s workforce by 2020. In 2013, all 31 USG institutions were eligible to submit applications; nine of the 28 applications submitted were selected for funding, including the UNG project.

"The University of North Georgia proposed an exciting project because it uses technology in a way that reinforces the important human support element of education," said USG Vice Chancellor Lynne Weisenbach, who heads the Office of Educational Access and Success. "A successful UNG project will not only provide more personalized supports to students but will also show other institutions ways to use data and evidence to design more effective services."

The UNG project, "Capturing Student Services Data to Improve Success and Completion," will be piloted on the university's Gainesville campus, which has the most students enrolled of all four UNG campuses. Beginning in August, students in the Academic Success Program will swipe their ID cards to "check in" to tutoring, workshops and other services aimed at helping students who are struggling academically. 

While largely successful, the university’s Academic Success Program currently only has the ability to track students' visits to an advisor and completion of online advisement modules. Advisors and faculty members rely on students' self-reporting regarding participation in career counseling, tutoring sessions or workshops, math labs, computer labs, and other services.

Dr. Chaudron Gille, associate vice president for the Office of University Affairs and Academic Services, said gathering and analyzing this data will ensure students are getting the help they need to succeed academically and complete their degrees – and determine whether the services are effective.

"The goal is to collect data on those services that are the most effective for different student populations. As we increase the scope of the program, this will allow us to allocate resources to have the greatest impact," Gille said. "Timeliness is going to be key as well. We hope that bringing real-time tracking to our support services means we can intervene at an earlier point in the semester and identify appropriate resources to help a student get back on track before they are classified as 'not in good standing.'"

Helping more struggling students make the transition to good academic standing will meet two goals of UNG's Complete College Georgia plan: providing support for completion to an underserved population and decreasing excess credits earned upon degree completion.

Currently, UNG students classified as "not in good standing," are encouraged to participate in an Academic Success Program. Students meet with an advisor, complete an online module, and develop an individualized plan that addresses specific needs or weaknesses. About 60 percent of struggling students choose to participate, and institutional data show those who do see an increase in their GPA.

UNG plans to expand the Academic Success Program to all four campuses and move to mandatory academic advising for all students for the first 42 credit hours. Advising will be required for students who are struggling academically, regardless of credit hours.

The project coincides with the roll out of new UNG cards and implementation of software to gather data on student involvement via ID cards. The majority of the USG grant funds will be used to purchase software and card scanners at a cost of $14,150 with the remainder allotted for training.

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