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Completion by Partnerships

Improving college completion will depend on partnerships, given statewide and cross-agency issues. Partnerships can not only result in coordinated resources, but also new forms of collaboration, improved communication, and a strong focus on accountability. This plan includes work to improve completion by partnerships in three areas:

1. Reporting and Communications

Both the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia will regularly report to Georgia’s Complete College America Council, which includes the Governor’s office, the agency heads and board chairs of the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Education, along with the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and key business, community, and philanthropic leaders. Both Systems will also work with the Governor on needed steps that result from his higher education funding study commission.

The commitment by both Systems that this document be a living plan with accessible updates is one way in which there will be a continuous focus on completion. This plan will be placed on a to-be-created ‘Complete College Georgia Website’ under the Governor’s Office, linked to the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia by Spring 2012. A communications plan will be developed, aligned to the College Access Challenge Grant, that focuses on extending awareness about the importance of postsecondary completion across Georgia by Summer 2012.

Rigorous analytics and transparent reporting are key to the accountability of the state, both Systems, and individual institutions. To that end, the continued work of the state Longitudinal Data System, as part of Race to the Top, is vitally important. To improve statewide coordination and accountability, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia propose an early 2012 Complete College Georgia launch event. Led by Governor Deal, the event would include members of the Performance Funding commission, college presidents include members of the Performance Funding commission, college presidents and vice presidents, legislators, K-12 superintendents, members of boards of both Systems, and other key leaders. The Launch will include national leaders such as Stan Jones (Complete College America), Jamie Merisotis (Lumina Foundation), David Spence (Southern Regional Education Board), Uri Treisman (Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin), and Dennis Jones (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems). The focus of this event would be on the overall completion agenda, the use of data and metrics, transforming remediation, performance funding, provision of guidance to campuses in development of completion plans, and announcement of the Completion Academy competition.

The University System of Georgia will additionally require each campus to submit its own completion plan aligned with the framework laid in this document and built upon University System of Georgia Progression and Graduation reporting strategies and structures. The University System of Georgia will provide feedback and support to its institutions to complete the plans following the statewide launch. Frameworks will be designed to enable campuses to regularly share data about best practices for improving completion.

The Technical College System of Georgia will require each of its colleges to develop the institution’s completion plan as a part of the President’s annual assessment and review process. The Technical College System will work with its colleges after the statewide launch to develop local targets for certificates, diplomas, and degrees. The Technical College System will host an annual resource summit for campus and System leadership to share best practices and collaborate on innovative ideas in support of Complete College Georgia.

2. Improving College Readiness and Access

Meeting college completion goals will require a substantially larger number of students graduating from high school who are motivated and prepared to apply to and be successful in college. Improvement must be made in three areas: Georgia’s high school graduation rate, the academic readiness of students who do graduate, and opportunities for access to college, none of which is possible without effective teachers. To that end, the colleges and universities are committed to producing new highly effective K-12 teachers and to develop and enhance the skills of current teachers.

The K-12 portion of this completion plan focuses on strengthened collaboration with the Georgia Department of Education in the areas of standards and assessments for college readiness and expanded programs to deliver college-level courses and credit while students are in high school.

Expanding the Pipeline from K-12

Georgia’s Department of Education reported a 2011 high school graduation rate of 79.5 percent. However, the method to calculate the rate is changing, and states nationwide are adopting a set of new, Federally backed metrics. Significant progress has certainly been made in recent years to increase the graduation rate, but the new cohort-based methodology indicates there is still much work to be done. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems uses a similar cohort method and reports a 58.8 percent graduation rate for Georgia in 2008.13 This rate is likely lower than the actual rate today, given the lag in the data, but points to the continued need to expand the pipeline coming from K-12. Further, around 30 percent of the high school graduates, as reported by NCHEMS in 2008, did not continue onto college.

Standards and Assessment

The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia will continue to work together with the Georgia Department of Education through the Alliance for Education Agency Heads on standards and assessments for college and career readiness. This collaboration is especially important in the vital subject area of mathematics. Changing levels of readiness in mathematics, whether through a mismatch of standards and entrance requirements, or a drop in overall quality, can significantly affect a student’s ability to access and successfully complete certificate and degree programs.

The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia have supported the work of the Common Core standards since the outset. English, mathematics, and teacher education faculty will support the Georgia Department of Education in ensuring dissemination of training in Common Core Georgia Performance Standard to current and future teachers.

The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia will work with the Georgia Department of Education to implement an assessment that can be used in the junior year of high school to judge progress on meeting readiness standards. In the long term, these assessments may be replaced by the in-development PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments. Both Systems have been actively involved in the PARCC Initiative. English and mathematics faculty have worked with representatives from other states to identify key college readiness standards in their respective domains.

Once the PARCC assessments are developed and implemented, the University System of Georgia has agreed to use the college readiness standards and assessments to determine college readiness and to exempt students, who are admitted to institutions, from learning support testing. There will also be continued work with the Georgia Department of Education and the Southern Regional Education Board to develop and deliver 12th grade courses in reading, writing, and mathematics for students who do not meet college readiness levels based on these assessments.

College Courses and Credit During High School

The Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Dual Enrollment, Early College, and Career Academies programs are important to the expansion of the K-12 pipeline. These programs can improve the college readiness of high school graduates and potentially shorten the time to a degree once in college, increasing the likelihood of completion. Work is ongoing among the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, and Georgia Department of Education in the area of dual credit courses.

The Technical College System will also begin statewide articulation assessments that will be given in high school. Credit earned under these assessments will be “banked” until a student enrolls in a technical college. As part of this project, a web-based process will be developed for the colleges to collect this data and have it readily accessible to admissions staff.

In the area of College and Career Academies, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia will work with other partners to establish a joint Office of College and Career Transitions. This new group will create a certification process and support services for academies that expand career- focused dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities.

In the area of Early College, the University System of Georgia will maintain the network of existing schools and share statewide and national best practices that have contributed to school successes. The University System of Georgia will also track Early College graduates based on college retention and completion across all college types (University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia, and other public and private institutions).

College Access

In addition to academic readiness, students need information, encouragement, and hands-on support in order to access, and be successful, in college. These supports are especially important for those populations traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, such as first-generation students, low-income, minority, and students with disabilities. Partnerships among businesses, communities, and state agencies will be leveraged to supply these needs through the College Access Challenge Grant. These include:

  • Implement ‘Georgia Apply to College’ events at more than 200 high schools across the state.
  • Develop ‘Near Peer’ service-learning mentorships where college students assist high-need high school students in preparing for, applying to, and enrolling in postsecondary education.
  • Lead collaborative college access efforts
    • Provide centralized resources, including Individual Graduation Plan development, for students, families, and educators through
    • Support business, community, and education groups sponsoring college- going events
    • Provide professional development for school counselors both directly and through partnerships with Georgia Student Finance Commission, Georgia Department of Education, and the Technical College System of Georgia
    • Support FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) events in collaboration with the Georgia Student Finance Commission
  • Continue and expand recent communications efforts, such as
    • Provide public awareness resources to educators, agencies, and community/business groups
    • Governor’s Proclamations for “College Access Month” and “Apply to College Month.”
    • Community and business engagement in creating a college-going culture across the state, including “Friday Night, College Lights” events, flyers, and banners and mini-grants for events created by community and business organizations
    • Creation of specialized Public Service Announcements showcasing Georgia students, parents, and business members

The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia acknowledge and call attention to the cost of higher education and its impact on a student’s ability to attend and complete college in a timely manner. Effectively addressing rising costs requires a national debate on the value of higher education to society and the appropriate shifts in public policy, especially in the area of funding. This work is beyond the scope of this plan; however, many of the proposed actions can work to enable institutions to be more effective, potentially leading to reduced instruction costs. Where these results can be achieved, the Boards of both Systems will seek to capitalize on cost-savings in ways that benefit students.

Georgia’s higher education institutions continue to be, and must remain, a comparatively low cost, high quality opportunity. For the 2011 to 2012 academic year, a recent survey reports average tuition and fees for public four-year institutions in Georgia at $6,808, while the national average was $8,244. Tuition and fees for public two-year institutions averaged $3,078 while the national average was $2,963.14 It is important that efforts be made to balance the cost of a quality education with the economic conditions of the state and the need to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money. The continuation of programs such as HOPE, and the addition of needs-based scholarships as Governor Deal has proposed, are important to the college completion agenda.

The University System of Georgia will continue to provide book grants, funded through the College Access Challenge Grant, for Early College, Move on When Ready, and GED students to help cover the gap between available funding and the actual cost of books and instructional supplies. The Technical College System of Georgia institutions will continue to assist secondary students and their families enrolled through dual credit opportunities to obtain book grants and to underwrite the non-HOPE covered portions of tuition.

3. Improving Pathways toward a Degree

Today’s college students commonly transfer between institutions. Forty-one percent of community college students nationwide transfer to four-year institutions and about one-third of all college seniors have transferred at some point during their college career. Articulation and transfer agreements provide students with important paths for transitioning within and across systems of higher education.

The University System of Georgia has one of the most comprehensive guaranteed agreements for transfer of general education courses between its institutions. However, many students also transfer from the Technical College System of Georgia to the University System of Georgia, and vice versa. While some steps have been taken to ensure general education course transfer between our two Systems, it is important to offer even greater articulation in support of the state’s college completion goals.

An unprecedented agreement between the Technical College System and the University of Georgia for a new articulation policy has been developed and will be implemented January 2012. This agreement creates a coherent statewide commitment that supports and sustains continued cooperation among institutions in both Systems over time. Under the agreement, opportunities to degree completion will expand while avoiding duplication of mission, assuring the most efficient use of state resources. Key points in the agreement include:

  • Provides definitions of Associate level degrees and general Technical College System and University System responsibility for these types of program offerings
  • Establishes conditions for consideration of proposed expansion of Associate level program offerings by each System
  • Sets up processes for review of additional general education courses for guaranteed transfer between the two Systems
  • Establishes a joint oversight coordinating council with representatives from both Systems to ensure sustainability of the articulation agreement