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University of Georgia Campus Plan Update 2018

Institutional Mission and Student Body Profile

The University of Georgia—a public, research, land- and sea-grant institution with commitments and responsibilities to the entire state of Georgia—is the birthplace of higher education in the U.S. Its mission is encapsulated by its motto: “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things,” three distinct actions that are visually embodied in the three pillars of its iconic Arch at the entrance to campus. This Complete College Georgia report is once again focused not only on that first pillar “to teach” but also how the University’s teaching mission aligns with its retention, progression and completion efforts.

UGA is the state’s oldest, most comprehensive and most diversified institution of higher education with more than 10,000 faculty and staff members and over 37,000 students in the 2017 Fall semester (undergraduate, graduate and professional, enrolled in 17 schools or colleges). It offers 136 undergraduate degrees, 238 graduate and professional degrees, and 95 certificates. UGA’s teaching faculty and staff are committed to superior teaching and student learning, to serving a diverse student body, and to promoting student success.

There is no single undergraduate student profile at the University of Georgia. Rather the institution is a rich tapestry of diverse students with widely varying backgrounds, interests, experiences, and challenges. In Fall 2017, the total undergraduate population numbered 28,848 students, the vast majority of whom hailed from the state of Georgia (89% vs. 9% out-of-state and 2% international). The majority of undergraduate students (94%) were enrolled full time; 43% were male; 31% (self-reported) were of racial/ethnic minority status. The typical UGA undergraduate was of traditional age (≤ 24 years), entered as a first year student, lived on campus for the first year, and was seeking a first undergraduate degree. The demand for a UGA degree has risen dramatically in recent years; for the class of 2021, the Office of Admissions received over 24,000 applications, a 7% increase over the previous year. From that pool of applicants, 5,437 students, with an average ACT score of 30 and high school GPA of 4.0, matriculated. The Office of Student Financial Aid disbursed $578,051,727 of federal, state, institutional, and other/external program assistance to 36,628 unique students (24% of whom received a Federal Pell Grant with over 220 students self-identifying as independent, i.e., former foster youth, wards of the court, orphans, homeless, or with legal guardians).[1]

Despite the size of its student population, UGA maintains small class sizes, having on average 38 students per class with a 17:1 student-to-teacher ratio. The Small Class Size Initiative (SCI) is improving that ratio. The SCI, which was introduced in 2015-16, reduced class sizes by hiring additional faculty and creating more than 300 new sections in high-demand courses, “bottleneck” courses, and courses that historically have high failure rates. To cite one example, the Mathematics department received SCI funds to add sections of pre-Calculus and Calculus classes with enrollments capped at 19. The results (see Figure 1) to date are quite encouraging: student and faculty reaction is strongly positive; DWF rates are down in both classes; and more students are progressing into the next course in the sequence on schedule and succeeding in those courses.

Figure 1:

The University of Georgia is a national leader among public universities in the number of major scholarships earned by our students, including 24 Rhodes Scholars, 7 Gates Cambridge Scholars, 7 Marshall Scholars, 53 Goldwater Scholars, 20 Truman Scholars, 16 Udall Scholars, 37 Boren Scholars, 3 Schwarzman Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, and 112 Fulbright Student Scholars. UGA, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright students by type of institution.

UGA’s challenging learning environment and innovative programs continue to garner national attention and recognition. For example, U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 “Best Colleges” edition ranked UGA 16th among public universities,[2] and The New York Times ranked UGA 10th among public universities doing the most for low-income students in its 2015 College Access Index. For the fourth consecutive year UGA received an INSIGHT into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for its efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse campus.

UGA is among institutions with the highest retention and graduation rates nationwide (see Appendix A, Table 1). It has an exceptional first-year retention rate of 96%. The time to degree has steadily declined from a high of 4.16 years for students who graduated in 2008 down to an all-time low of 3.94 years for those who graduated in 2017 (see Appendix A, Table 3). The six-year completion rate remains steady at 85%, which exceeds that of all but two of our peer institutions, and the four-year completion rate continued at 66.2% for the 2013 cohort.[3] UGA is working to increase the four-year graduation rate to 70% for the 2021 cohort.

It is clear that the University of Georgia enrolls a high performing and academically strong student body. The teaching and learning environment at UGA features a large number of the high-impact practices identified by AAC&U; those most widely used include a first-year experience (our award-winning First Year Odyssey Seminar that is required of all first-year students), first-year living/learning communities, global learning,[4] service learning,[5] collaborative learning, experiential learning, internships,[6] and undergraduate research opportunities.[7]

Since Fall 2016, all UGA undergraduate students must fulfill an experiential learning requirement to graduate. UGA students can meet the requirement by engaging in creative endeavors, study abroad and field schools, internship and leadership opportunities, faculty-mentored research, and service-learning. At this point, students may choose from nearly 1,600 rigorously vetted courses and co-curricular activities to satisfy this requirement. In addition to EL, UGA also has launched Double Dawgs, a program to provide pathways for students who want to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less. To date, UGA has approved 154 Double Dawgs programs, either within a single department and discipline or across departments, schools, or colleges. We will be tracking these students to measure and assess the impact of this rigorous program on, for example, graduation rates and the transition into graduate study.

The President’s Task Force on Student Learning and Success (2017) made a number of recommendations to enhance teaching and learning on campus, including the wider adoption of active learning in more courses and classrooms. To support this recommendation, the university allocated $1.25 million to help faculty incorporate active learning strategies into their undergraduate courses and to transform several traditional classrooms into active learning spaces. These and other efforts are supported by the staff in the Center for Teaching and Learning (see Appendix B). UGA’s traditional degree programs, in concert with these many special initiatives, demonstrate that UGA is preparing the work force that will serve the state now and well into the future.

Institutional Completion Goals, Strategies, and Observations

This year the University of Georgia is reporting on three Complete College Georgia goals: 1) increasing the number of degrees earned on time (in particular, in four years); 2) providing targeted, proactive programming and advising to keep students on track to completion; and 3) restructuring instructional delivery to support educational excellence and promote student success. To meet these goals, the University has implemented a number of strategies that are synergistic and advance several of our CCG priorities. This year we report on five of those strategies, all of which will help increase the four-year graduation rate.

Goal: Increasing the number of degrees that are earned on time

  • Strategy 1: Offer resources and interventions to promote student academic success and completion in four years

Goal: Providing targeted, proactive programming and advising to keep students on track to completion

  • Strategy 2: Provide proactive, cohort-based academic support programs for underserved students to promote student academic success and completion in four years
  • Strategy 3: Elevate advising to improve student academic success and completion in four years

Goal: Restructuring instructional delivery to support educational excellence and promote student success

  • Strategy 4: Expand online course offerings, particularly in the summer sessions, to give students more flexibility in planning their programs of study and to promote student academic success, progression, and completion in four years
  • Strategy 5: Continue efforts to improve general education, update pedagogy, and support faculty efforts to improve instruction to enhance student learning and progression

Strategy 1: Offer resources and interventions to promote student academic success and completion in four years

Primary Contact: T. Chase Hagood, Director of the Division of Academic Enhancement,

The Division of Academic Enhancement (DAE, houses a number of resources—from tutoring to academic coaching—to bolster student success, support students as they transition into higher education, and help them progress through UGA from the day they are admitted through graduation. Their resources include courses in creative thinking, study strategies, active learning, and metacognition, along with special seminars for transfer students and a comprehensive roster of success workshops. Here we report on three programs.

The Freshman College Summer Experience (FCSE), run by DAE, is a four-week academic residential program for a diverse community of first-year students to help them form meaningful academic and social networks. FCSE students enroll in three credit-bearing courses including a high-demand discipline-based course, a service-learning course, and a writing seminar designed to help students transition into college-level academic writing. Graduate student mentors live in residence during the program to provide sustained support as students navigate their first experiences as college students. FCSE students are traditionally retained through year one at higher percentages than the overall student population: 98% retention rate for FCSE 2016 and 97% for FCSE 2017.[8]

DAE has a comprehensive Academic Resource Center that includes space for tutoring, both online and face to face. In 2017-2018, 3,926 unique students had a total of 19,585 tutoring appointments. Preliminary data show significant impact of tutoring on student grades; for example, if students visited the tutoring center in DAE for Chemistry more than 10 times, they saw a 1.91 GPA boost in their final course grade; for Math, the increase was 1.48. We know that persisting in these two particular classes affects four-year graduation and are encouraged by these results.

Since Fall 2017, DAE has offered UGA students the opportunity to meet with certified and trained academic coaches to map out a pathway to academic success. Typically, the coach and student work together over four sessions to create a strategic learning plan that lays the groundwork for knowing what strategies and practices will be necessary for success at UGA ( During the 2017-2018 pilot, 515 unique students created a strategic learning plan with their coach; DAE is tracking these students to assess the impact of coaching on graduation, and we expect to have data for next year’s report.

Strategy 2: Provide proactive, cohort-based academic support programs for underserved students to promote student academic success and completion in four years

Primary Contacts: Judith Iakovou, Coordinator of Special Academic Programs in the Office of Instruction,, T. Chase Hagood, Director of the Division of Academic Enhancement,, and Naomi J. Norman, Associate Vice President for Instruction,

The UGA student body reflects a diverse group of individuals in terms of their domicile (rural, suburban, or urban), exposure and familiarity with college (first generation college students), and in terms of their financial means. While many UGA students come from metropolitan Atlanta, Savannah, and other urban areas throughout the Southeast, approximately 15% of the student population at UGA hails from more rural parts of the state. Similarly, approximately 5% of UGA’s incoming freshman class in the fall 2017 semester were the first in their families to go to college, while 23% were eligible to receive Pell grants. In light of these factors, the Task Force recommended creating a new cohort model (like the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship Program) to serve rural students, and the Office of Instruction committed to providing additional resources for all first generation students at UGA.

To serve first generation students, UGA created “1st at the First,” a comprehensive and proactive outreach program to help students and their families learn about the network of support and resources that UGA provides, including handbooks (in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean) to assist them with the terms and processes that characterize higher education in the U.S. All students who identified as first-gen students are invited to join the “1st at the First Leadership Institute” that offers multiple touch points to expand their on-campus networks while also developing skills essential to leadership and professionalism. We are tracking these students to measure and assess the impact of the program and expect to have some results for next year’s report.

Data from the Office of Institutional Research show that students from rural areas of Georgia have approximately 10 percent lower four-year graduation rates and higher one- and two-year withdrawal rates than their sub/urban peers, and rural students who self-identify as minority students slightly underperform other rural students (see Appendix C).[9] UGA launched the ALL Georgia Program to support students from rural areas and help them achieve the same levels of success at UGA as their peers from sub/urban regions. The ALL Georgia Program offers rural students two pathways to academic success at UGA: 1) an intentional network of support and resources available to all rural students through the DAE; and 2) a comprehensive, four-year scholarship program for a cohort of high-achieving and high-need ALL Georgia Scholars. We are tracking these students to measure and assess the impact of the program and expect to have some results for next year’s report.

Strategy 3: Elevate advising to improve student academic success and completion in four years

Primary Contacts: Julia Butler-Mayes, Interim Director of University Advising Services,, Jennifer Eberhart, Coordinator of the Exploratory Center,, and Naomi J. Norman, Associate Vice President for Instruction,

Excellent advising helps enable students to attain their academic goals, and research shows that meaningful relationships with advisors are critical elements of superior undergraduate education and degree completion. To optimize advising, UGA has a three-prong approach: 1) enlarging the corps of professional academic advisors in the schools and colleges; 2) opening in Fall 2016 the Exploratory Center where specially trained advisors help students find a major that aligns with their unique talents and aspirations; and 3) using a common platform to facilitate communication among students, advisors, and other units that support student success.

Since fall 2017, UGA has hired 41 additional academic advisors and encourages the use of DegreeWorks and DegreeWorks Planner so students can create, in consultation with their advisors, a comprehensive four-year plan and track their progress to graduation. All of the undergraduate-serving schools and colleges now have professional academic advisors working with their students, and all have adopted a more centralized advising model to keep each student, whenever possible, with the same academic advisor.

At the Exploratory Center (EC), specially trained advisors help students find a major that aligns with their unique talents and aspirations. The EC was created in response to the ongoing issue of students changing their majors multiple times, decisions which often significantly delay degree completion and add to their debt burden.[10] Advisors are available in the EC for both scheduled and walk-in appointments; these numbered 10,302 in 2017-2018.[11] In addition, the EC is partnering with both the Career Center and Student Affairs on programming, including holding walk-in appointments in the EC. We are currently collecting data on the number and timing of major changes and expect to see a small decline. We can already report that in 2015-16 to 2016-17, 48% of students changed their primary major at least once, but in 2016-17 to 2017-18, after the EC opened, that number dropped to 40%.

UGA uses SAGE, a campus-wide software platform, that allows students, advisors, and other student services offices to schedule student appointments, manage student advising notes, adjust advising caseloads, refer students to various resources and services,[12] make to-do lists, and generally track student interactions. It allows UGA advisors and campus partners to collaborate on student issues through a shared system and provides a unified hub for sharing information and resources. In 2017-2018, SAGE recorded 52,090 advising appointments (46,749 scheduled, and 5,341 walk-ins). The software also gives advisors access to information that helps them deliver timely interventions.

Strategy 4: Expand online course offerings, particularly in the summer sessions, to give students more flexibility in planning their programs of study and to promote student academic success, progression, and completion

Primary contacts: Stephen Balfour, Director of the Office of Online Learning, and Paul Klute, Director of Office of Institutional Research,

In 2013, the Office of Online Learning (OOL) launched a Fellows program to recruit and train faculty to design, develop, and teach high-quality online courses. Through this initiative UGA has developed 68 online undergraduate courses (up from 49 last year) that satisfy at least one area in the core and over 200 unique courses (up from 181 last year) at the 3000, 4000, and 5000 level. Many of these are online versions of required, high-demand, and/or bottleneck courses. UGA also offers an online BSEd (Bachelor of Science in Special Education) and a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in General Business, along with 10 online graduate certificates and 16 graduate degrees.

Growth in the roster of online courses, especially in the summer, is positively impacting time to degree, for these courses allow students who are studying or interning off campus or who must return home to work full-time during the summer to stay on track for graduation. A measure of their success is that more and more students complete their undergraduate degree with at least one online course in their program of study. Moreover, an increased number of students are opting to enroll in online courses during the summer; in summer 2014, online enrollments accounted for only 10.5% of the overall summer term enrollments, but that number rose to 49.2% in summer 2018. Clearly the availability and flexibility afforded by online courses helps student stay on track for graduation.

Strategy 5: Continue efforts to improve general education, update pedagogy, and support faculty efforts to improve instruction to enhance student learning and progression

Primary contacts: Megan Mittelstadt, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Naomi Norman, Associate Vice President for Instruction,

Prompted by the recommendations in the President’s Task Force Report and USG’s Momentum Year goals, UGA is:

  • Re-designing the undergraduate biology courses and their requirements, including re-evaluation of the necessary sequencing of courses. Anticipated implementation: Fall 2019.
  • Revising UGA’s undergraduate writing and communication requirements. Discussions are ongoing, and we anticipate implementation of updated requirements by Fall 2019.
  • Introducing “data literacy” as a core requirement of the undergraduate education. Discussions are ongoing, and we anticipate implementation of this requirement by Fall 2019.
  • Implementing campus-wide efforts to increase adoption of “active” pedagogy in classes (reported on here).

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), in addition to offering workshops, programs and initiatives to support retention, progression, and completion efforts at UGA, also helps faculty transform undergraduate courses to engage students actively in their learning. In March 2018, the CTL created and disseminated a survey to inventory the active learning strategies being used by faculty at UGA. To record an accurate and reliable “snapshot” of teaching practices and to facilitate adoption of a common vocabulary on active learning, faculty were asked to inventory the active learning strategies they used in a target course session in response to an Active Learning Snapshot Survey. Of the more than 400 faculty respondents—representing 13,508 students and 332 classes taught in Spring 2018—51% percent indicated they spent little to no lecture time during their classes, engaging instead in various active learning practices.

The snapshot provides the baseline against which UGA will measure the impact of the 2018 Active Learning Summer Institute that helped 32 faculty redesign their courses to include more active learning strategies. Faculty worked independently and with consultant partners to finalize their courses for implementation during the 2018-19 academic year; over 10,000 students will be affected by these courses during the current academic year. We are tracking the students enrolled in these redesigned classes and expect to have data for next year’s report.[13] In addition, DAE is offering a course for students on how to learn in an active learning environment so that the issue is being addressed from both sides of the classroom.


The University of Georgia’s retention and completion plan is focused both on having an engaging and supportive environment designed to support all students and on providing specific programs for students who are at risk. At UGA, students are being retained and are completing bachelor’s degrees at exceptional rates. The first-year retention rate for all students hovered around 94% every year from 2008 through 2013 but is currently at 96%; during this same period, the first-year retention and six-year completion rates for certain underrepresented populations at UGA realized some gains (see Table 2). However, there is work still to do, especially with underrepresented populations and transfer students.

In addition, completion rates for the entire undergraduate population also have increased by several percentage points during the past 10 years. For the 2007 cohort, the four-year completion rate was 58% but was 66.1% for the 2012 cohort. Similarly, the average time to degree for entering freshmen has steadily declined, from a high of 4.16 years for those graduating in 2008 to an historic low of 3.94 years for those graduating in 2017 (see Table 3). Our goal is to boost our four-year completion rate to 70% by 2020.

UGA graduates are recruited by major corporations, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and government. Indeed, UGA’s 96% career outcomes rate[14] is 11% higher than the national average. Even more striking is that 88% of full-time employed graduates obtained that employment within three months of graduation while 20% of graduating seniors are continuing their education.

The University of Georgia’s completion strategy combines programs targeted to specific populations as well as those that impact the entire undergraduate population. They were designed with our high performing, academically strong student body in mind—to challenge, engage, and support students on their way to timely completion. Our retention and graduation rates, positive enrollment trends, number of degrees conferred, and job offer rates underscore UGA’s ability to help address the workforce needs of the future.

Momentum Year

Here we report on the three specified areas of our Momentum Year work: purposeful choice, clear paths for students and productive academic mindset.

Purposeful Choice

Goal: Reduce the number of students who change their major by helping them discover a good fit early and by increasing support for transfer students to ensure success in their major.

  • Completed elements: Students take the grit assessment and Holland Interest Inventory before orientation; these scores are available to advisors via SAGE (see above) to guide their discussions with their advisees about their aspirations, aptitudes, and potential for success within various majors/pathways; in addition, the Exploratory Center is now fully operational (see above) and seeing large numbers of students each semester.
  • Elements in process: A Transfer Advisory Committee has been working on ways to assist transfer students to ensure that they remain on track for on-time graduation. The committee will finalize its recommendations later this semester. Based on initial conversations, the recommendations are expected to include measures such as: improving communication with students before they transfer and finalizing transfer handbooks for each undergraduate-serving school/college so students do not accumulate extraneous credits before they arrive; having dedicated transfer advisors in every undergraduate-serving school/college; creating a web portal to answer questions from students who are planning to transfer to UGA; and creating an online system so students can have courses from their home institution vetted and approved before they arrive.
  • Elements forthcoming: Implementing some/all of the recommendations made by the Transfer Committee as appropriate.

Clear Paths for Students

Goal: Use meta-majors—not a default program map—to help students find the major that is a good fit for them.[15]

  • Completed elements: UGA’s 140+ majors are included in seven meta-majors: Creative, Leadership, Service, Life/Health, Technology, Culture, and Nature. Each meta-major is based, in part, on common core courses, and each major within the meta-major is identified according to the Holland Inventory to give students a range of options within each meta-major.[16]
  • Elements in process: The Office of Institutional Research is validating our meta-majors for best fit with the core; this requires a major restructuring of our curriculum data tables.
  • Elements forthcoming: Disseminate meta-majors across campus and educate campus advisors on how they were built, what they mean, and how they might be useful in helping students identify their pathway.

Productive Academic Mindset

Goal: Continue to administer the USG Getting to Know Our Students Mindset Survey according to the USG timetable and analyze and act on information obtained from that survey as relevant.

  • Completed elements: We administered the survey in the 2017-2018 academic year and are ready to administer it again this year. Our return rate last year was quite small. At the spring 2018 advising workshop, there was a session on academic mindset and advisors were invited to become part of a learning community on the topic.
  • Challenges: Overall, our response rates for all surveys appear to be declining as the use of surveys proliferate. One option is to replace multiple surveys with a single “master” census and support it with significant advertising and incentives, as could be done with the “Student Experience in the Research University (SERU)” tool. Questions regarding mindset could be embedded within the same survey. However, this will require elimination of several other surveys that are standard practice at UGA and/or more broadly within the USG.
  • Elements forthcoming: Additional sessions on academic mindset will be offered to advisors throughout the academic year.



[1]   Please note that the financial aid data is not yet finalized, and these figures may change slightly.

[2] In the 2018 report, UGA is ranked #13.

[3] The gains for transfer students have been more modest, and UGA is implementing strategies recommended by the President’s Task Force on Student Learning and Success to ease their transition to UGA and improve their completion rates; one important new resource is the online transfer handbook that students and their advisors can consult as they prepare to transfer to UGA.

[4] UGA has over 170 Study Abroad, exchange programs, and field school opportunities available to students; in 2017-2018, 2,410 students (34% of the undergraduate population) participated in study abroad programs. The university currently ranks #13 in the nation for overall student participation in education abroad, and #8 in short-term participation, according to Open Doors.

[5] In 2017-18 a record number of unique undergraduate students (5,282) enrolled in a course with a service learning component, and 996 took more than one service learning course during the year; 77.5% of the students who responded to a survey reported that the service-learning component of the course positively influenced their intention to complete their degree.

[6] UGA has over 275 internship opportunities that students may use to fulfill the Experiential Learning Requirement.

[7] Through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO), all UGA undergraduates, beginning in their first year, may engage in faculty-mentored research, regardless of discipline, major, or GPA. At the spring 2017 CURO Symposium, a record number of 554 students shared their research findings with the University and local community.

[8] FCSE 2018 was able to offer scholarships to high-need and traditionally underrepresented students to participate; we will be collecting data on the impact of the program on this particular population to report in future years.

[9] “Rural,” for this preliminary research, encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within a Census defined urban area, 2010 boundaries.

[10] In evaluating student data for more than 4,310 first-time freshmen who graduated in Spring 2014, we observed that only 32% of these students graduated with the same major in which they started, while 19% switched majors twice and about 6% changed majors three times or more which, in addition to delaying graduation, led to more student debt and extraneous credits.

[11] The EC also advises pre-business and pre-journalism majors; this number includes those appointments as well.

[12] Since deploying SAGE, there has been a sharp uptick in the number of tutoring appointments at DAE; see Strategy 1 for data on impact of tutoring on student success.

[14] The Career Outcomes Rate is calculated from the percentage of students who are either employed, continuing their education, or not currently seeking employment within an average of 6 months after graduation.

[15] UGA does not have a “default program map” for various reasons, including the large number of majors at UGA, as well as the large number of AP/IB classes that UGA students bring. The variability due to these two factors makes it difficult to work with a small number of standard program maps. Instead, advisors build a custom map for each student, and English/Math is always recommended within the first year. Similarly, students who are still exploring the right major see advisors in the Exploratory Center and create their plans.

[16] UGA students and their advisors use the DegreeWorks Planner tool to make 4-year plans for their courses. Although we continue efforts to increase its adoption across campus, it is important to highlight that the tool is more generally accepted in majors that have more well-defined curricula (e.g., Engineering) and is used less in areas that are inherently more flexible and allow students to build their curriculum as they advance in the major (e.g., humanities and social sciences).