The campus plan is Dalton State’s response to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia initiative that launched a year ago.
“Historically, our region has had an unusually low level of educational attainment,” said Dr. John O. Schwenn, president of Dalton State. “It’s understandable; for decades it wasn’t necessary to have a college degree in order to get a good job in the floorcovering industry, as well as other sectors of the economy. As our industry has evolved, however, that is no longer the case. Advanced manufacturing has taken over, and the industry has taken on a global reach; it is necessary for just about every employee to have an education past high school.”
Dalton State’s campus plan to increase graduation rates includes several components, most notably continuing efforts to work with local P-12 school systems to ensure more high school graduates are prepared for the rigors of college work and improving access to college education for qualified students, including both new students and also those who started but never finished college.
Gov. Nathan Deal recently released the college completion plans submitted by every institution in the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). This announcement makes Georgia the first state in the nation to have a completion plan for every public higher education institution. In Georgia, they detailed how they will meet the governor’s goal of adding 250,000 post-secondary graduates to Georgia’s rolls by 2020.
“I am encouraged by USG and TCSG’s swift response to this critical issue and commend the partnerships they have formed in an effort to raise college completion rates,” Gov. Deal said. “These necessary actions will provide a highly-educated workforce to businesses that choose to operate in Georgia and allow us to continue on the path of making our state the number one place in the nation to do business.”
A study last year by Georgetown University found that, to meet projected workforce needs, Georgia must increase the percentage of its population that holds a post-secondary credential from 42 percent to 60 percent over the next eight years.
The campus plans detail exactly how the ambitious goal of adding an additional 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state’s rolls by 2020 is going to be met. As institutions begin to implement the plans, higher education officials point out that they will receive continued assistance to improve the plans and will be held accountable for progress.
Campuses have worked since spring, and the individual institutional plans were submitted to the governor’s office in early September and are now being rolled out publicly. Dalton State’s team included Dr. Jodi Johnson, vice president for enrollment and student services; Dr. Sandra Stone, vice president of academic affairs; Dr. Henry Codjoe, director of institutional research; Dr. Christy Price, psychology professor; and Dr. Angela Harris, assistant vice president for enrollment.
“Each school’s plan to increase its number of graduates is specific to that institution’s unique conditions and circumstances; there is no cookie cutter response,” Dr. Johnson said.
Strategies incorporated into Dalton State’s plan include measures to increase communication and collaboration between the local college and faculty, staff and administrators of regional school systems that feed into Dalton State.
Certain student populations have been identified as needing extra assistance finishing a degree program, among them are part-time students, older students (over age 25), first generation college students and those requiring remedial classes.
Administrators will study those cases in hopes of identifying obstacles and barriers to their completion, Dr. Johnson said.
Administrators will work to shorten the time to degree for students through better advising and closer monitoring. Dr. Stone reported that a number of faculty members have actively participated in a course redesign project to develop new, more engaging ways to deliver academic instruction. Expanding hybrid and online courses and a redesign of the First Year Experience program for freshmen are two ways Dalton State is making changes in the classroom, he said.
Administrators are examining the college’s learning support program that provides remediation to students who are not prepared to plunge into college work, and changes in campus culture will be considered as faculty and staff work together with the ultimate goal of student success.
“Most of the strategies outlined in our campus plan are things we’re doing already; we are now enhancing and focusing them under the banner of ‘Complete College Georgia,’” Dr. Stone said.