University System of Georgia's Board of Regents launches graduation plan

ATLANTA — The Board of Regents agreed Wednesday to begin developing graduation targets for the state’s 35 public colleges, which will eventually determine their funding.

The targets are part of the state’s strategy for boosting graduation rates at colleges, universities and technical schools, launched by Gov. Nathan Deal in September.

The regents took a first step Wednes­day by approving a general outline of how the staff will address the main reasons students don’t graduate: expense, time, inconvenience and lack of skill. Just 57 percent of Georgia students who start a four-year college graduate in six years, a rate that declines for minorities, the poor, older students and those having to work while attending.

“We’ve got to do a better job in this state and this country on graduating students,” Chairman Ben Tarbutton said.

A committee will begin in a few weeks to come up with separate targets for each level of school.

They will be different for the research institutions such as the Uni­versity of Georgia that already have the highest graduation rates, from those for the so-called access schools such as Savannah State University that aim to make higher education available to as many people as possible.

Vice Chancellor Lynne Weisen­bach predicted the recommended targets will come to the regents for a vote in the spring.

Each school is drafting its own plan for boosting graduation rates.

The regents also voted Wednes­day to approve an agreement with the Technical College System designed to simplify transferring from one system to another.

“This is a big deal,” Tarbutton said.

While researching ways to help college students complete their studies, the staff is coaching the Department of Education on ways to ensure that high school graduates are prepared for college-level work. Currently, 59 percent of freshmen at two-year colleges and 48 percent of freshmen at state colleges other than the research institutions require remedial courses.

At the 25 technical colleges, one quarter of students need remedial help.

Fewer than one in four remedial college students and just 7 percent of those in the technical schools graduate in six years.

“Where’s the (Department of Edu­cation) in all of this?” Regent Willis Potts asked.

Chancellor Hank Huckaby said the department, which oversees high schools, continues to hear from him and Ron Jackson, the commissioner of technical colleges.

“That’s a very important counter point in our discussions,” Huckaby said.

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