Gov. Nathan Deal, along with all 35 presidents of the University System of Georgia, 25 presidents of the Technical College System of Georgia and representatives from Georgia's independent colleges and the business community, today launched the campus level completion portion of Complete College Georgia, which was first initiated in August 2011. The initiative calls for and identifies strategies for the state's public and private colleges to add an additional 250,000 college graduates -- whether a one-year certificate, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree -- by 2020, a number that is over and above current graduation levels.
"Any significant increase in the number of Georgians who complete college will require a historic new era of coordination between the state's public and private colleges and the business community," said Deal. "To have a successful future in Georgia, and remain competitive nationwide and globally, we have to have an educated workforce, and that means we need to do a better job getting people into college, make sure they receive a high-quality education and then graduate them."
The presidents also heard from Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Clark noted that the work of Complete College Georgia is in line with the economic needs of the state, as reflected in a recently released report from the governor's office as part of Deal's Georgia's Competitiveness Initiative.
The Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, which gathered input from more than 4,000 Georgians for the report, highlighted education and workforce development, specifically improvement in the academic quality of and access to K-12 through postsecondary education, as a top priority in nearly every region of the state.
Over the past six months USG and TCSG officials have developed a statewide plan to meet the Complete College Georgia targets. Today's event comes at the beginning of campus-level planning and work to align with the statewide plan.
"Make no mistake, this marks a big shift in higher education in Georgia," said USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby. "To do this right, we have to work toward the long term and envision how higher education can better serve the people of Georgia, and we have to do this collaboratively with all players in the state."
TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson added, "Our institutions have been making strides toward improving access and graduation rates, but we have to do more. We needed to come together and have open discussions about what we can do as a state."
A recent Georgetown University study indicates a great deal of work must be done nationally and in Georgia in order to ensure the nation's future workforce needs. In Georgia, currently 42 percent of the population holds some form of a college degree, while the Georgetown study found that by 2020, that percentage should be 60 percent for the state to remain economically competitive.
To reach the "big goal" James Applegate, vice president of program development for the Lumina Foundation, said to the group, "You need to serve those for whom so often the current system of higher education doesn't work."
This includes the 35.8 million working-age adults nationwide that attended college for some time but did not earn a degree, Applegate said. Military personnel and minority groups also should be a focus in terms of ensuring more individuals are able to complete some level of college.
The Lumina Foundation, based in Indianapolis, is focused on expanding access and success in education beyond high school, with a single, overarching goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.
Georgia is a member of the Complete College America Alliance, a group of 30 states committed to significantly increasing the number of students successfully earning a college degree or credential. The state received a $1 million grant from Complete College America in August to focus on transforming remedial education, a core component of the larger Complete College Georgia effort.