Georgia Highlands College says it's implementing new programs and strengthening existing ones to help meet the goals of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia initiative.
Completion plans, part of the governor’s Complete College Georgia initiative launched last August, were submitted by every institution in the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia, making Georgia the first state to have such plans for every public higher education institution, according to the press release. They detail how the schools will meet Deal’s goal of adding 250,000 post-secondary graduates to Georgia’s rolls by 2020.
At GHC, several directorship positions have been created to provide greater stewardship of key programs within the CCG framework, officials said in a release.
Laura Musselwhite, interim vice president for academic and student affairs, spearheaded GHC's plan submitted to the governor’s office.
"Many members of the college community have worked on this plan, with an eye toward meeting realistic objectives to increase the number of college graduates the state will need to stay competitive during the next decade," she said. "As an access institution that welcomes students who may not be ready for four-year colleges or universities, we see the many challenges such students face as they try to navigate their way through higher education to meet their personal goals.
"We already provide a high level of individual attention to students, but we believe that we're on a positive trajectory toward increasing the rate of graduates coming through our doors."
GHC officials say graduation rates for two-year colleges have always been low—12 percent within a four-year window, according to the most recent numbers. By implementing new initiatives and strengthening others already in place, the college expects to increase graduation rates by 10 percent within the next three years.
The variety of new initiatives at GHC designed to help students graduate or transfer to a four-year institution include:
- Launch of the Office of Community Outreach. GHC has been hosting a series of Fabulous Fridays since 2008 to bring sixth-graders to the college for an age-appropriate and fun introduction to the benefits college can offer. Originally this program was confined to Floyd County, but the Douglasville campus now offers a similar program for the Douglas County community. Plans are to expand to the other three campuses every two years, as resources and funds allow. When the students who participated in Fabulous Fridays reach eighth grade, they are surveyed to assess their continued interest in college as they approach high school. Under the new Office of Community Outreach, these same students will be brought back to GHC for an evening of information about attending the institution. The Community Outreach office will eventually encompass veterans’ affairs, adult and service learning and other activities, in addition to Fabulous Fridays.
- The college is also expanding dual enrollment options via partnerships. At the Cartersville campus, it'll team with Performance Learning Center, allowing high-school students to earn college credits.
- New articulation agreements are being forged with a number of four-year institutions throughout the region to make transferring seamless and easy for GHC students.
- The Adult and Service Learning Program offers services to adult learners, a category that includes students who have delayed college enrollment by more than one calendar year after high school. Its director will work closely with the coordinator of Veterans’ Services. Because many factors are in play and important for adult learners, this office will offer a one-stop shop of support services. Students will find information about prior learning credits, civic engagement, veterans’ affairs, time management, study skills and more. The office works with the offices of Student Support Services to enable easier access to counseling or handicap services. It also works closely with the First Year Experience program to help students new to college navigate the challenges more readily.
- Shortened time to degree. The Floyd campus is piloting a pre-nursing cohort for working adults that offers intensive, shortened pre-requisites to the nursing program in the evenings after work. If successful, students will be able to apply for GHC’s nursing program in two years. This year’s cohort will be able to enter the program fall 2014. A similar program for business students is planned for the 2013-2014 academic year.
- Study materials for COMPASS tests. COMPASS testing now takes place before students are admitted, not after, as it was in previous years. To help them prepare, GHC provides preparation materials via a link when students sign up for the tests.
- Co-Requisite courses and flipped classrooms. Research shows that students who take remedial courses while simultaneously enrolled in college-level courses are more successful, so GHC has adopted a model whereby students use the learning-support courses to help them with college-level work. Doing so enables students to move more quickly. Only students who scored close to the minimum required for college-level classwork will have this option. Flipped classes reverse traditional methods: rather than listening to lectures in class and doing research or other homework out of the classroom, students listen to video-based instruction and do online tasks out of class, reserving class time to ask questions and get help related to the assigned tasks.
Georgia Highlands has also ramped up some of its programs and services already in existence to support the Complete College Georgia initiative.
- Improved advising services will keep students focused on courses that lead directly to their degree choices without veering off-course with classes they don’t need. Early Bird Advising, put in place several years ago, provides an opportunity for students to plan their schedules over several terms. An early warning program requires notification from faculty members at the two-week point for attendance, the five-week point for participation and mid-term for grades. Messages are sent to students who are flagged at these points telling them to seeking support from instructors, advisors or other sources.
- Brother2Brother has been an extremely successful program designed to increase the success of minority male students. Retention rates among students who were part of the program, fall to fall, were 75 percent compared to 61 percent for the college overall. This program continues to increase in numbers.
- Distance learning. GHC has offered distance classes since 1994, available at first only through a local cable television channel in Rome. Because of rapid changes in technology, this kind of instruction progressed from College by Cassette, then DVD, Web-based and hybrid courses, which combine online and in-class instruction. GHC plans to offer four associate degrees completely by distance learning by fall 2013.