As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, the University System of Georgia is making headway in increasing college graduation rates and keeping college affordable, the man who is set to become the university system’s top administrator told legislators Monday.
“The two really go hand in hand,” Steve Wrigley, who becomes the University System of Georgia’s chancellor on Jan. 1, told the paper.
Wrigley was a featured speaker at the University of Georgia’s Georgia Center for Continuing Education for the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, which is held every two years after fall elections to give legislators education and training in the legislative process and in the issues coming up before the legislature convenes in January.
An interim chancellor since August, when Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, Wrigley has been executive vice chancellor of administration for the University System of Georgia for over five years. Prior to that, he was senior vice president for external relations at the University of Georgia and chief of staff for former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller.
In 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal’s “Complete College Georgia” initiative set a goal of 60 percent of Georgia’s workforce having post-secondary education including technical school. Since only 47 percent do, the university system must increase the number of graduates by about 3 percent a year, he said.
The system has about 321,000 students, and about 62,000 graduated this year, up 14 percent from five years ago, he said.
The system is using several strategies to reduce the time students need to complete their degrees, Wrigley said.
He also said that a change in how colleges are teaching remedial skills to students has shown great promise in five pilot programs. Instead of special courses in remedial math or English, students who need remedial help enroll in regular classes, but get special tutoring over the course of a semester.
This fall, students in the university system could take 6,200 online undergraduate courses, up from 1,500 six years ago, he said.
The system is also saving students millions of dollars in textbook costs with a program that offers students in many courses free digital textbooks, he said.
He also noted the state Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public colleges, did not raise tuition this year. The system is also saving millions of dollars by merging colleges. Five years ago, the University System of Georgia counted 35 institutions of higher education; as of Friday, when Darton State College and Albany State University merge, that number will be 28, he said.
“They (students) need to be prepared to work, but they also need to be educated citizens who strengthen democracy,” he said.
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