Big Push to Improve Georgia Higher Ed Graduation Rates

Mike Klein, GPPF Editor

Governor Nathan Deal announced Georgia is one of ten states that will receive $1 million grants from Complete College America to support improvements in higher education graduation rates.  These CCA grants are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  One result you should expect is closer coordination as it benefits students between the state’s university and technical college systems.

Two years ago the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicted that 62 percent of all jobs nationwide will require some college education before the year 2018.  Georgia is far from ready according to data on the Complete College America state website that reports just 34 percent of Georgians 25-to-34 years old have college degrees.

Complete College America found that for every 100 Georgia students who begin ninth grade, just 38 enter college the fall after completing high school.  Just six graduate with a bachelor’s degree within four years.  Just three graduate with an associate’s degree within three years.

The Southern Regional Education Board recently challenged its 16 member states, Georgia included, to improve higher education graduation rates.  SREB said, “Fewer than half of ninth graders in SREB states and the nation have a reasonable chance of college enrollment — an alarming statistic.”  SREB focuses on southern states from Delaware to Texas.

Governor Deal announced his Complete College Georgia Initiative on Thursday morning during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta.

“We must increase the number of students with access to higher education and ensure that these students graduate with post-secondary degrees in a timely manner,” Deal said.  “We know this problem is significant.  Less than a quarter of full-time students at two-year colleges ever graduate and only 44 percent at four-year colleges get their degree within six years.  We also know the problem is fixable.”

One goal will be to ensure higher education becomes more seamless.  A common concern has been difficulty students sometimes encounter when they attempt to transfer credits, especially between the technical college and university systems.

Part of the $1 million grant will  improve remedial education at four schools, the Coastal College of Georgia and Georgia Gwinnett College in the university system; and Athens Technical College and DeKalb Technical College in the technical colleges system.

A new scholarship program will focus on low-income middle school students who have college potential and it will provide support through high school.  Students who complete the program will receive tuition scholarships.  Private partners are being sought to assist with seed funding.

The Governor’s Office will also create a commission to focus on changes to higher education funding, similar to an existing commission that is working now on K-to-12 education funding.

Complete College America was established two years ago by Stan Jones, former Indiana state commissioner of higher education.  CCA receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, in addition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Other $1 million winning states include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.  Two states will be announced soon.  Thirty-three states applied.

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