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Gordon State College Campus Plan Update 2018

Institutional Mission and Student Body Profile

Gordon State College’s mission is to ensure affordable, supportive access to high quality post-secondary education.  As an access institution, we provide engaged faculty-student interaction through intimate classroom experiences; innovative and effective teaching strategies; excellent advising and mentorship programs; and effective student support services.  GSC offers baccalaureate and associate degree programs.  The institution has focused more in recent years on meeting the needs of underrepresented populations and dual-enrollment students.

Final Fall 2017 enrollment was 3,985; as of August 24, 2018, Fall 2018 pre-midterm census enrollment is 3,655. Of entering freshmen in fall 2017,

  • 53% had learning support requirements, down slightly from 56% in Fall 2016.
    • 34% of entering freshmen had only a Math requirement (N=423), up from 26% in Fall 2016
    • 11% had Math and English requirements (N=134), up from 5% in Fall 2016
    • 2% had English requirements (N=25)
  • 844 were Pell-eligible, an increase of 63% over Fall 2016
  • The percentage of Pell-eligible freshmen was 68.4%, up from 59% in Fall 2016
  • 38% were African-American
  • 20% self-identified as first-generation college students, down slightly from Fall 2016; however, another 22% chose not to answer the question, and we suspect our first-generation population is actually much larger

To better serve our student population, Gordon State College was one of the first institutions in the USG to take remediation transformation to scale.  Overall, we have targeted traditionally underserved populations for increases in access and completion. At the same time, our institution has increased its population of students taking courses on a dual-enrollment basis.  In the semester of our peak enrollment, fall 2010, we enrolled 41 dual-credit students.  In fall 2017, that population increased 997%, to 452 students. 

Institutional Completion Goals, High-Impact Strategies and Activities

High-impact strategy 1. Improve student engagement and advising through

  • Intrusive advising
  • Engagement and advising training for new faculty members
  • Faculty development in teaching and learning

Related Goal

1: Increase in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by USG institutions. 

Demonstration of Priority and/or Impact

Effectively engaging and advising students are critical factors in success for many students, and in an access institution these factors receive considerable attention. 

Primary Point of Contact

For strategies 1.A and 1.B, Prof. Peter Higgins, Assistant Vice-President for Academic Excellence,

For strategy 1.C, Dr. Anna Higgins-Harrell, Coordinator of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning,

Summary of Activities

A. Provide Always Alert intrusive advising for disengaged and poorly performing students.

Due to significant program growth in previous years, Always Alert decentralized the academic interventions in the 2015-2016 academic year, relying less on Student Success Center staff by recruiting, training, and using more faculty for the Always Alert interventions.  The 2017-2018 academic year saw explosive growth in the program and continued efforts at decentralizing the interventions.  In all, 16 faculty and staff members from 5 departments (and two schools) volunteered to be academic coaches in addition to the Student Success Center Staff. These academic coaches included faculty from the following School of Arts and Sciences departments: Biology/Physical Science; Business/Public Service; History/Political Science; Humanities; and Math/Computer Science. The School of Nursing and Health Sciences also contributed faculty volunteers. In total, academic coaches conducted 1,154 Always Alert interventions for 602 unduplicated students during 2017-2018. That represented a 59% increase in interventions and a 94% increase in unduplicated students over 2016-17.  Also, the trend towards Always Alert becoming a campus-wide responsibility continued: non-SSC staff (faculty volunteers) performed 37% of all Always Alert interventions during the academic year. As a point of reference, as recently as the Spring 2016 semester, non-SSC staff had performed only 13% of all Always Alert interventions.

As part of the effort to decentralizing academic interventions, Academic Coaches began walk-in Always Alert advisement in 2015-2016 in an effort to improve accessibility to academic coaching and remove scheduling difficulties that come with working around both students’ and faculty members’ schedules. That initiative continued in the 2017-18 academic year, with walk-in Always Alert advising being made available in a central location on campus (the Student Center); the Student Activity and Recreation Center; and in the campus’s largest residence hall.

B. Improve training of new faculty members in student engagement and advising.

In 2017-18, Gordon State continued to expand its academic advising training program for new faculty. The training was provided by the Student Success Center professional advisors and was informed by the principles of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).  The training focused in depth on the following topics:

  • Learning Outcomes
  • DegreeWorks, Banner, and Academic Summaries
  • Core Curriculum and Academic Plans
  • Learning Support
  • Academic Standards and Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Always Alert Intrusive Advising
  • Working with Student Success Center Advisors

Based on feedback from previous years, the majority of the training was done through online modules developed by the SSC advisors. A total of 16 new faculty—13 from five different School of Arts and Sciences departments, and 3 from the School of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences—completed the training program, which included “live” Always Alert and academic advising opportunities, overseen by the SSC staff.

C. Increase and improve learning opportunities for all faculty members in the knowledge and practice of excellence in teaching and learning.

The GSC Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning continued to grow in 2017-18, with the appointment of Dr. Anna Higgins-Harrell as the new director. In addition to less formal meetings and conversations, CETL held 15 official events over the course of the academic year. Below is a sampling of titles:

Looking Abroad for Answers: Collaborating to Change the Model of American Developmental Education

Faculty Interactions to Promote Intrinsic Student Motivation

 Our Students, Open-Education Resources, and Textbook Affordability

Building and Designing an Effective Rubric (and using it in D2L)

D is for Dedicated Scholars: Supporting Undergraduate Research at GSC

CETL continued the annual Teaching Matters Conference that draws participants from the eastern United States. Seventy-three faculty members from around the state attended the Spring 2018 conference.  In addition, CETL was moved into it’s own designated house on campus.

D. Hold an on-campus student success conference to engage faculty and reinforce the message that everyone on campus is responsible for student success.

In August 2017, GSC held its second annual Student Success Summit (SSS), an on-campus conference-style event that drew campus-wide participation from both faculty and staff. John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot, nationally known student success experts and liaisons to the USG’s Gateway to Completion initiative, kicked off the SSS with a lunch –time keynote address, which was followed by two sets of student success-related presentations and discussions put together by faculty and staff. Although it is the type of event whose impact is difficult to quantify, once again the Summit received overwhelmingly favorable feedback, and the Always Alert program (see above) continued to see increased faculty participation, both in terms of Academic Coach volunteers and number of referrals.

Measures of Progress and Success

Measure, metric, or data element

Combined number of degrees conferred and students who transfer to other USG institutions. As an access institution offering both associate and baccalaureate degrees, we measure “completion” by the number of degrees conferred and the number of students who transfer to a university or college.  We have reliable transfer data only for USG institutions.

Baseline measures


Interim Measures of Progress

One-year changes:

  • Associate’s:  -4.0% (421 to 404) 
  • Bachelor’s:  +8.0% (187 to 202)
  • Transfer Outs: -9.4% (464 to 420)

See table below, Degrees and Transfer Outs by Academic Year.*







Associate Degrees






Bachelor's Degrees






Transfer to other USG Institutions












Measures of Success

Increase in combined number of degrees conferred and transfer outs.

Lessons Learned

Always Alert: De-centralizing much of the Always Alert advising continues to make the work load manageable and is perhaps contributing to campus culture change regarding student success. Although the number of referrals grew, the percentage of referred students who actually attended an intervention dropped below 50% for the first time in the program’s history. For 2018-19 we are planning to implement a variety of measures to address that drop, including better communication about what Always Alert is; even more walk-in availability; and asking faculty to provide some in-class context about Always Alert once reporting season opens, in the hope of de-stigmatizing it.

NFO Training: Many new faculty come with insufficient training in engagement and advising, so it becomes an important responsibility on the College’s part to get them prepared for that crucial duty. A big lesson learned this year is that we face some resistance that seems to have originated with a few veteran faculty undercutting the need to advising training

CETL: These activities have a less direct but still important connection to completion goals.  There have been no significant challenges to increasing and improving CETL learning opportunities.

Completion Goals: Decreases in enrollment after 2010/11 eventually caused a corresponding decrease in degrees conferred and transfer outs, and after an increase in degrees conferred in 2015-16, we were disappointed to see decreases over the past two years. We are, however, pleased to see that the number of baccalaureate degrees increased for the fourth consecutive year.

High-impact strategy 2. Increase high school dual enrollment participation

Related Goal

6: Shorten time to degree completion through programs that allow students to earn college credit while still in high school and by awarding credit for prior learning that is verified by appropriate assessment

Demonstration of Priority and/or Impact

For some years, Gordon State College had built on its strong relationships with service area high schools to provide access to post-secondary education through dual-enrollment.  In 2015, Georgia SB 132 and SB 2 provided a boost to dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, primarily through financial support. 

Primary Point of Contact

Dr. Ric Calhoun, Assistant Vice-President of Innovative Education and Strategic Initiatives.

Summary of Activities

In 2017-18, Gordon State moved responsibility for the booming dual-enrollment population under the newly created Assistant Vice-President of Innovative Education and Strategic Initiatives position, after having added the position of Move On When Ready Coordinator in 2015-16.  The move was made to meet the growing demand while continuing to improve customer service, including communication with local high schools, their students, and the parents of those students. 

For the 2017-18 year, GSC continued to work with public and private school systems in our service area to facilitate dual enrollment, through a variety of strategies:

  • vigorous recruiting at high schools
  • evening information sessions for students and parents at the high schools and at Gordon State College campuses
  • partnering in three College and Career Academies

Measures of Progress and Success

Measure, metric, or data element

Increase in dual enrollment.

Baseline measures

At the peak of GSC’s overall enrollment, in fall 2010, dual enrollment was 41.

Interim Measures of Progress

Dual-Enrollment Headcount by Academic Year













Measures of Success

The maximum dual-enrollment headcount will be determined primarily by the maximum number of students in service area high schools who meet enrollment requirements.

Lessons Learned

  • Serving this student population requires relatively more resources compared to “traditional” freshmen. Getting students through the admissions process involves extra challenges, particularly at off-campus sites (high schools and academies) with whom we have relationships: conflicting cultures and sometimes priorities make the enrollment process difficult.
  • Intentional and well-crafted NSO’s are a must and make all the difference with this population of students. Expectations must be communicated clearly to both students and parents from day one.

High-impact strategy 3. Enroll ALL students in need of remediation in gateway collegiate courses in English and mathematics, with co-requisite Learning Support; combine English and reading remediation; and ensure that all remediation is targeted toward supporting students in the skills they need to pass the collegiate course. 

Related Goal

7: Increase the likelihood of degree completion by transforming the way that remediation is accomplished

Demonstration of Priority and/or Impact

Gordon State College is an access institution in the USG, with 582 entering freshmen in Fall 2017 having one or more learning support requirements.

Primary Point of Contact

Dr. Steve Raynie, Director of College Readiness:

Summary of Activities

GSC continued to be ahead of the system curve regarding co-requisite remediation.  ALL students with a math requirement were placed in a support lab for either Quantitative Skills and Reasoning or College Algebra, and ALL students with an English requirement were placed in a support lab for English 1101.

Measures of Progress and Success

Measure, metric, or data element

Number of semesters to pass collegiate course for co-requisite and stand-alone remediation

Baseline measures

Students admitted in fall 2012 with LS requirements could take only stand-alone LS courses, so passing a college course in the first term was not an option.  The table below reflects the percentages of students who passed in two, three, or four semesters:

2 Terms

3 Terms

4 Terms

Not Passed











Interim Measures of Progress

For students admitted in Fall 2017 with an English Learning Support requirement,

  • 68% taking co-requisite courses passed English 1101 in their first semester, up from 64% in Fall 2016
  • Another 5% passed in their second semester
  • So 73% of all students with an English LS requirement passed ENGL 1101 in their first academic year, up from 71% in 2016
  • Compared to our baseline measure, those success rates represent a 151% improvement

For students admitted in fall 2017 with a Math Learning Support requirement,

  • 54% taking co-requisite courses passed a college-level math course in their first semester, and another 10% in their second semester.
  • That 64% success rate represents a decline over the Fall 2016 rate of 76%
  • However, the 64% two-semester success rate represents a significant improvement over the baseline measure of 20%

Measures of Success

Students in the co-requisite courses will meet or exceed, within two semesters, the overall pass rate for the corresponding collegiate course in the fall term (ABC rate).

  • For Fall 2017, the overall ENGL 1101 ABC rate was 72%.  The ABC rate for co-requisite English students was 73% within two semesters, or one point higher.
  • The overall MATH 1001 (Quantitative Skills and Reasoning) ABC rate was 52% and the MATH 1111 (College Algebra) rate was 44%.  The ABC rate for all co-requisite Math students was 64% within two semesters.

Lessons Learned

As we moved to scale on co-requisite remediation with the complete elimination of Foundations courses, the success rates continue to be encouraging. We did see a drop from Fall 2016 Math success rates, but co-requisite students once again outperformed our measure for success.

One important lesson learned is that de-coupling support labs from college-level sections proved to more challenging than expected, both in terms of logistics and unexpectedly strong resistance from faculty/department culture. We “re-coupled” for Fall 2018, but will continue to look for ways to make de-coupling happen.

High-impact strategy 5. Create an opportunity for applicants who fall just short of GSC’s admission requirements to access a college education through a structured learning environment.

Related Goal

9:  Improve access for underserved and/or priority communities.

Demonstration of Priority and/or Impact

As an access institution in the USG, Gordon State College has the responsibility of developing innovative methods for providing students the opportunity to earn a degree.

Primary Point of Contact

Dr. Steve Raynie, Director of College Readiness;

Summary of Activities

ACCESS stands for Admissions Course through Collegiate Excellence and Student Success.  The ACCESS Institute provides an alternative admissions pathway to applicants identified as having the potential to succeed in college but who do not otherwise meet regular admissions criteria.    This program is available by invitation only through the Gordon State College Office of Admissions. Not all applicants will qualify, but those who are admitted participate in a designed curriculum with extra advising and tutoring support.

Students enter in a cohort taking the same, carefully-planned set of classes and must meet the following contractual requirements to remain in the Institute:

1. All students must earn at least a C in all courses during both terms.

2. All students who remain in the program after the first term must take a set of prescribed classes together (i.e., remain in a cohort) for at least one additional semester.

3. All students agree to meet regularly with academic coaches, advisors, and tutors appointed by the college and to follow their guidelines and recommendations.

The first ACCESS Institute cohort was enrolled in the summer 2014 term, and our enrollment goal was 25 students for the first three cohorts.  For the fourth cohort in fall 2015, we were prepared to push the enrollment goal to 50, which we exceeded.

In Fall 2016, we began a second ACCESS program in conjunction with Fort Valley State University (FVSU GAP, or Gordon Access Program), focused on students who do not quite meet FVSU admission standards. These students were guaranteed full admission to FVSU if they successfully completed the two-semester FVSU GAP program. We have expanded the program greatly in Fall 2017, with 99 students in the program, an increase of 76 students over the original Fall 2016 cohort, or a 330% increase.

Measures of Progress and Success

Measure, metric, or data element

Cohort enrollment

Baseline measures

No students were admitted who did not meet admission standards in the prior year (other than Presidential Exceptions)

Interim Measures of Progress

Institute Enrollment by Cohort

Fall 2014

Su 2015

Fall 2015

Fall 2016

Fall 2017






Measures of Success

The long-term enrollment goal is 75 students.

Lessons Learned

We continue to see the need for close collaboration between the ACCESS team and our Admissions office, so that we can identify ACCESS students and communicate with them in a timely way during summer.

Also, the ACCESS Institute experience confirms that students’ obstacles to success tend to have far less to do with comprehending the academics than they do with building successful habits in thought and action.  For that reason, we are excited to have had our new FIRE 1000 course, which is focused on growth mindset and critical thinking, approved as an Area B course that all students must take.

Our success with the FVSU-GAP program is a double-edged sword. Over 70 of the original 99 student cohort was successful and enrolled as FVSU sophomores in Fall 2018, but they count against our retention numbers because they did not enroll at GSC for Fall 2018.


Our most successful strategy and activities to this point continue to come under Goal 6, shortening time to degree completion by facilitating access to dual credit opportunities. 

It continues to appear that transforming remediation has the potential to have the greatest impact on retention, progression, and completion. 

Despite intensive efforts to improve branding and communicating, general efforts at attracting more students to a college education have been less effective than marketing to targeted populations: adults who wish to complete a degree, young people who fall just short of admission standards but are motivated, and dual credit students. 

As an access institution, GSC has the major challenge of trying to change long-term habits in a short timeframe for a significant portion of our student population.  Such habits include time management, financial management, study skills and work ethic. We must assist students with developing good habits before they lose academic eligibility and/or lose financial support.

To that end, after a false start in Fall 2017, we are recommitting to our “Gordon First” program, which provides both faculty and peer mentoring for our significant first-generation population, and our AAMI program, which suffered from lack of funding in 2017-18 but is off to a great start in 2018-19.

Expectations: GSC is excited to continue many of the above high-impact practices for 2018-19, and even more excited about the Momentum Year, organized at GSC under the umbrella of The Highlander Edge. We already feel that Momentum Year projects, such as re-imagining our New Student Orientations and the new FIRE course, are already having a positive impact on our student population and campus as a whole.

Momentum Year Update

Roughly 90 days in, we feel as though we have made progress towards our Momentum Year goals. What follows is further progress since we submitted our implementation plan on March 15, 2018:

Element 1 (A): Move students from “undecided” to a focus area

  • Completed two Momentum Year planning sessions
  • NSO planning committee met throughout the spring
  • NSO planning committee divided up into subcommittees
  • Drafted NSO framework
  • Held multiple focus groups with Gordon State sophomores and upperclassmen
  • Developed assessments for how new NSO’s help students in making a purposeful choice
  • Finished plans for newly reimagined NSO and developed communication plan for students
  • Determined final NSO framework
  • Selected and trained NSO staff: student Gordon Orientation Leaders (GOL’s) and faculty NSO Specialists
  • Hired 16 GOL’s and 6 NSO Specialists
  • Created and implemented overall NSO assessment plan
  • Have begun campus-wide debriefing on new NSO effectiveness

Still to do:

  • Admissions application updates for new focus areas
  • Identify further assessments to assist student in making a purposeful choice

Element 2 (A): Degree programs are aligned into academic focus areas that have common first year courses

  • Finalized focus area document
  • Communicated program map concept and published maps

Still to do:

  • Continue to improve course scheduling process to match focus area/program map needs

Element 2 (B): Each focus area and program of study has an established default curricular (program) map that that provides term-by-term course requirements and structured choice for appropriate electives

  • Developed Learning Support overlays (three) for first two semesters for all programs
  • Identified courses and credit hours earned for “new freshmen”
  • Determined who will be advising new students and developed training for those advisors

Still to do:

  • Continue to review program maps for accuracy in light of potential changes in requirements
  • Ensure matching course scheduling

Element 2 (C): Students are provided with default program maps that are sequenced with critical courses and other milestones clearly indicated and advised and counseled to build a personal course schedule that includes core English and mathematics by the end of their first year.

  • Task completed—will continue to fine-tune course selections through internal research

Element 2 (D): Students are provided with default program maps that are sequenced with critical courses and other milestones clearly indicated and advised and counseled to build a personal course schedule that includes three focus area courses in the first year.

  • Task completed—will continue to fine-tune course selections through internal research

Element 2 (E): Students are provided with a default program map that is sequenced with critical courses and other milestones clearly indicated and advised and counseled to build a personal course schedule as full a schedule as possible—ideally 30 credit hours—in the first year.

  • Completed Learning Support overlays to insure 30 hours in the first year
  • Implemented the use of program maps during NSO’s and advising to encourage 30 hours in the first year
  • After NSO’s, saw significant increase in percentage of new freshmen registered for 15+ hours—61.06% in Fall 2018, compared to 30.63% in Fall 2017.

Still to do:

  • Develop handout to educate students and parents on benefits (both academic success benefits and cost benefits) of 15-hour + course semesters

Element 2 (F): Students are provided with personalized curricular maps and have ongoing advisement in their academic program. Students are directed to co-curricular activities and practices that are supportive of their majors and overall integration into the college environment.

  • Developed a list of all clubs, with many academic disciplines already established
  • Have instituted co-curricular transcripts
  • Made club advising significant service for faculty
  • Worked out co-curricular transcript procedures

Still to do:

  • Improve club recruitment process
  • Work on communication plan to announce meetings
  • Institute club advisor training with focus on Momentum concepts

Element 3 (A): All incoming freshmen will be invited to participate in the USG Getting to Know Our Students Mindset Survey before the first three weeks of the semester

  • Because the Mindset Survey was not available during our orientations, we scrapped our plans to administer it there. Instead, we returned to the email process we used last year, with supportive announcements made by faculty teaching our FIRE 1000 class.

Still to do:

  • Analyze results and use to develop new student success initiatives

Element 3 (B): All faculty and staff, especially those who work with students in their first year, are oriented toward student engagement and success, and are provided with the training and tools they need to fulfill their roles in this regard

  • Organized Third Annual Student Success Summit, held on August 1, 2018
  • Set topic (Giving Our Students the Edge) and recruited keynote speaker (Dr. Tristan Denley)
  • Promoted importance of the SSS and insured that all campus offices shut down on August 1 so that ALL GSC employees could participate
  • Held three face-to-face debriefs on the SSS to gain feedback from faculty and staff on its effectiveness and impact
  • Devised and distributed via email an anonymous survey to gain feedback from faculty and staff on its effectiveness and impact

Still to do:

  • Analyze feedback and use to improve SSS for next year

Element 3 (C): Continue to engage students in the learning process in a more meaningful way by introducing new pedagogies and HIPS, and increase student success in gateway courses

  • Successfully re-submitted proposal to get our new freshman seminar course, FIRE 1000, approved for Area B
  • Implemented FIRE 1000 for Fall, with all freshmen required to enroll
  • G2C entering second year of redesign for ENGL 1101 and MATH 1111
  • G2C entering first year of redesign for HIST 2111
  • G2C conference attended by key faculty and staff involved in the redesign

Lessons Learned Thus Far:

  • Campus-wide undertakings like the Momentum Year, re-designed New Student Orientation, and the Student Success Summit require “overcommunication.” It is easy for some faculty and especially staff to feel left out. There is no such thing as too much communication with projects like these
  • Developing the program maps was a worthwhile endeavor—also going the extra mile to develop Learning Support overlays was a great investment of time, given our student population
  • Redesigning NSO’s was an arduous task, but a worthwhile one both in terms of practical impact (students coming to campus with better sense of expectations and better schedules) and campus community, as volunteers from every corner of campus came together to build these crucial events
  • Using students in NSO’s is a huge investment of money and time, but it is definitely worthwhile
  • Coordinating class offering with the demand set forth in the program maps/focus area courses is a crucial step that we can improve on for next year
  • Closing the campus and allowing ALL staff to participate in our Student Success Summit was worthwhile and beneficial