Like many other states in the U.S., Georgia participates in the Complete College America initiative. This initiative came about in response to studies indicating that in order to be globally competitive, America must produce more workers with advanced training and education. In the counties served by the University of North Georgia, the percentage of the population age 25-64 with an Associate’s degree or higher ranges from 10.8% to 55.1%. In many of these counties approximately 20% of the population age 25-64 has some college but no degree. ( Bridging Georgia’s Completion Agenda to Broader Public Agenda). In order to reach Governor Nathan Deal’s goal of adding 250,000 postsecondary graduates to Georgia’s workforce by 2020, the University System of Georgia has identified eight goals based on best practices in student success, retention, and graduation.
So what does this mean for UNG, and what have we done since 2013?
Our goal as an institution in participating in Complete College Georgia is to provide greater access to education for students in our service area and for our students to successfully complete their degree programs. The longer a student stays in school without completing their degree, the more costly their education becomes and the more likely they are to drop out. UNG has chosen to focus primarily on the following goals in its Complete College Georgia plan: increase the number of degrees awarded on time, decrease excess credits earned on the path to getting a degree, provide intentional advising to keep students on track to graduate, shorten time to degree completion, and restructure instructional delivery to support educational excellence and student success. The strategies employed to reach these goals have included: promoting 15 to Finish, expanding dual enrollment, promoting prior learning assessment through credit by examination and review of military credits, redesigning learning support courses and expansion of completely online opportunities.
15 to Finish Georgia Initiative
Last year, after an extensive selection process led by a faculty committee, the university decided to focus on advising for its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as part of its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The QEP, “On Time and On Target,” focuses on intrusive advising and guided pathways to degree completion in order to increase the number of students reaching their educational goals on time and reduce the number of excess credits taken by students.
Show me the data
While it is too early to report graduation rates of students impacted by these CCG strategies, we can point to significant progress in the measures of success for each initiative. Since 2013, we have seen a 135% increase in the number of dual-enrolled students (625 in fall 2015). More importantly, 50.2% of the seniors enrolled in 2014 matriculated to UNG upon high school graduation. In spring 2014 UNG became an eCore affiliate, providing seamless registration for USG online core curriculum offerings to our students. We have concurrently expanded the number of courses offered through UNG online, so that there are now several associate degrees completely available online. The online course registrations for UNG students have increased from 2705 in fall 2013 to 5871 in fall 2015 with an average completion rate of 81%.
While many of our students juggle work and family responsibilities with going to school and should adjust their course load accordingly, the 15 to Finish initiative is designed to encourage those who are full-time students to take fifteen credit hours rather than twelve each semester. The addition of online courses has made it possible for more full-time students to take fifteen credit hours per semester, but course availability remains a challenge. We saw substantial increases from 2013 to 2014, but from 2014 to 2015 UNG’s growth in enrollment and in retention rates have made it challenging to offer 15 or more credits to current students. The number of students taking 15 or more credit hours increased, but there were no gains in terms of the percentage of full-time students taking 15 or more credit hours, as the chart below demonstrates.
|Fall 2013||Fall 2014||Fall 2015|
|Students taking 15||1330||1816||2061|
|Students taking > 15||1650||1902||1941|
|Total # full-time students (12 or more)||10,022||10,745||11,768|
|% of full-time students taking 15 or more credits||29.7%||34.6%||34%|
The Faculty Role
We know that positive faculty-student interaction is one of the greatest factors in student success. The creativity and passion that faculty bring to teaching engages students in learning. Faculty are the often the first to notice if a student is struggling and can provide vital referrals to the wide range of support services offered by the university. As academic advisors, faculty guide students in making appropriate choices so that they stay on track with the necessary courses for their major and can experience enriching educational opportunities such as study abroad, undergraduate research, internships and service learning. Many faculty sponsor clubs and promote activities that support students who are members of traditionally underserved populations. Faculty also contribute to the success of our CCG initiatives when designing their courses and new curriculum by using pedagogies that support different learning styles, developing online versions of courses, and carefully considering prerequisites and course sequencing in the development of new degree programs. Clearly faculty have an important role to play in all of our CCG initiatives.
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