In August 2011, Governor Nathan Deal announced the launch of Complete College Georgia, a statewide effort to increase attainment of a high quality certificate or degree. Since that announcement, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia have partnered and collaborated on the strategizing, planning, and implementing efforts that drive the primary goal of Complete College Georgia to improve student access to and graduation from institutions of higher education. CCG has five major work areas:
- College Readiness: Mending the P-12 pipeline to increase the number of high school students graduating and ready to begin higher education work.
- Improving Access & Completion for Underserved Students: Identifying and removing commons barriers for minority, part-time, adult, military, disabled, low-income, and first generation students.
- Shortening the Time to Degree: Improving current and developing new paths for students to earn a high quality degree in a timely manner.
- Restructuring Instructional Delivery: Improving the quality of student learning through effective teaching, facilitation and innovative modes of learning.
- Transforming Remediation: Improving remedial education practices to remove barriers and increase success.
Aligned to the state plan, campuses developed institution-specific plans to improve access and graduation focused on the following areas:
- Collaborative engagement between campus and community stakeholders
- Data collection to identify strengths, areas for improvement, and the needs of regions and populations served
- Alignment and institutional partnerships with K-12 school districts
- Improved access and graduation for all students and for specific populations
- Shortened time to degree by awarding credit for prior learning and improving transfer and articulation agreements
- Restructured instruction and learning through effective teaching and learning practices in traditional and online courses
Meeting the ambitious goals for CCG requires the transformation of a host of higher education components. Beginning with the first efforts of CCG, the lead actors—USG, TCSG, and the Georgia Department of Education—have worked to coordinate expectations, options and opportunities for students. This partnership extended to the business community in the state, as institutions were encouraged to partner with the employers in their area and across the state to identify key workforce and skill demands that they could address.
Effecting this change required addressing the key barriers to completion that were identified in the initial 2012 Georgia’s Higher Education Completion Plan: college readiness and access; affordability and cost; shortening time to degree; transforming remediation; and restructuring delivery. Institutions across the System, supported by the USG System Office, have undertaken significant efforts across these areas in the past three years. These efforts are based on known best practices that have been demonstrated to bear significant results in other states. Among these are:
- Credit Intensity (15-to-Finish; Four for U; 15 is Full Time)
- Guided Pathways for Success
- Transforming Remediation
- Predictive Analytics
- New Models of Learning
- K-12 Readiness and Educator Preparation
- Go Back Move Ahead
- Open Educational Resources (Affordable Learning Georgia and others)
The USG Office of Educational Access and Success (OEAS) has assisted each of the USG institutions to create and monitor CCG progress through initial Completion Plans and annual Completion Updates. These Updates ensure that each institution is implementing high impact strategies to increase completion rates, such as those above. The OEAS team works individually with each institution to maximize and focus their efforts to reach CCG goals. Annual Plans are provided for the Governor’s office and are shared publicly in order to share the work that is occurring on our campuses.
Understanding that reframing the enterprise of higher education requires considerable experimentation and adaptation, the OEAS has conducted two cycles of innovation grants to support campus activities that have the potential to be effective at increasing student retention, progression, and graduation at scale. These small grants have had outsized impact on practice at their host institutions and provide invaluable information about how new strategies can be promulgated across the system to promote student success.
The shared responsibility for improving post-secondary completion rates among TCSG and USG has lead to power collaborations on several fronts, as both systems move to implement high-impact strategies on their campuses. Among these have been the transformation of learning support to a principally co-requisite model that places most students who arrive at college with gaps in their preparation into collegiate-level courses with targeted support. Both systems have moved aggressively on this approach with full implementation in the 2015 school year. The two systems are also working on Guided Pathways for Success, a comprehensive approach to ensure students get the guidance they need to complete a degree program efficiently without accruing unnecessary credits. Using a mix of consolidated and default scheduling, metamajors, and analytics and intrusive advising, Guided Pathways programs at both TCSG and USG institutions provide choice architecture for students that minimize opportunities to get off-track and maximizes opportunities for guidance and intervention for students who need support. Implementing these initiatives at both statewide systems amplifies the ability to share best practices and lessons learned, accelerating adoption at scale and refining approaches to meet the needs of diverse audiences.
In addition, for some students, barriers to completion may arise from policies and procedures that exist at the System level. Recognizing that CCG refocuses the work of public higher education through a completion lens, the System has undertaken a comprehensive review of policies that could hinder or impede completion and instituted a procedure to offer remedies for these issues without diminishing academic rigor. This process has resulted in changes to policy related to learning support, academic renewal and required high school curriculum, and evolved into a transparent process for identifying policy barriers and resolving these.