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Georgia, Augusta lag behind nation in college degrees

Saturday, June 15, 2013 6:42 PM
Last updated Sunday, June 16, 2013 1:27 AM
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While the number of adults graduating from college is on the rise in Georgia, the sluggish pace leaves the state 32nd in the country for those who have completed degrees beyond high school, with the Augusta metro area trailing the state and nation.

According to a study released by the Lumina Foundation last week, 36 percent of adults in Georgia and 33 percent in metro Augusta held two- or four-year degrees as of 2011, the most recent data available. Even as demand for skilled workers grows, only 39 percent of adults in the U.S. held college degrees, up slightly from the year before but behind the pace needed to reach the national goal of 60 percent college attainment by 2025.

“It’s all about jobs,” said Dewayne Matthews, the vice president for policy and strategy at Lumina, an independent organization focused on higher education. “The U.S. economy is creating jobs in this recovery since the recession, but we know that the vast majority of jobs being created today are jobs that require some form of postsecondary education.”

According to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia initiative, more than 60 percent of jobs will require a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree by 2020.

Augusta Economic De­velopment Authority Ex­ec­utive Director Walter Sprouse said employers that consider the Augusta area have varying requirements for educational levels and skills.

“Some require a college degree; some don’t,” he said.

Ceil Polk, the human resources manager at PCS Ni­tro­gen, one of the area’s largest employers, said most of her recruits are found outside Augusta. Although her company advertises positions locally, Polk said the more qualified candidates are coming from beyond the Savannah River.

“I don’t know when I’ve seen someone that we’ve hired that had their degree from (Georgia Regents University),” Polk said. “They’re going to University of Georgia or Georgia Tech or Clemson or University of South Carolina.”

Like other colleges across the country, GRU is working on remediation and tutoring to help produce more graduates while also helping them obtain their degrees in less time. The university hopes to have a 10,684 enrollment in 2020, a 12 percent increase from fall 2012, according to Vice Provost Roman Cibirka.

To improve on the dismal 20 percent six-year graduation rate Augusta State University had in 2010, be­fore consolidating with Georgia Health Sciences University to form GRU, the institution is planning an “early alert system” for the fall, which will give students and their advisers earlier notice when they are falling behind or fail a test.

The university is encouraging all students to take 15 credit hours per semester so they can graduate in four years, incur less student debt and expedite the path to the workforce.

Lumina’s report found that the number of younger Georgians earning college degrees is surpassing older Americans.

Among adults 25 to 34 in Georgia, 36 percent held at least a two-year degree, compared with 40 percent nationally.

A gap remains among ethnicities, however, as 58 percent of Asians have a degree in Georgia compared with 41 percent of whites, 32 percent of Native Americans, 29 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanics.

Lumina President and CEO Jamie Merisotis said state and federal policymakers must enact formal goals and plans for change, which Georgia has begun with Complete College Georgia.

Merisotis said the K-12 system must be improved and that funding for higher education must be tied to needed outcomes. He said rising college costs and the financial aid system must be reformed and incentives for college completion must grow.

If the college attainment rate continues at the current pace, 48 percent of adults nationally and 42 percent in Georgia will have completed some form of higher education by 2025 – well under the 60 percent goal.

“Clearly the system of higher education that we have today has served us well historically,” Merisotis said, “but it will not serve us well going forward unless we create significant change that will create the opportunities for those much larger numbers of students to get into college, to succeed in college and to do better in their postsecondary studies.”


The percentage of American adults between the ages of 25 and 64 who have a two- or four-year degree is on the rise, but at a modest pace. The national goal to have 60 percent college attainment by 2025 is at risk unless the pace quickens.

S. Carolina34.2%34.8%34.9%

Source: Lumina Foundation

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Riverman1 06/16/13 - 03:08 am
A Dissertation They Can't Defend

Training is one thing, but a college degree is another. The reality is only a minor portion of the population has the IQ, ability and aptitude to do the academic work found in traditional college courses. Recognizing this fact, the goal to give college degrees to 60% of the population is misguided.

What will happen, and we are seeing it now with the GRU program, is that a college education will be dumbed down and the value of degrees lessened. Young people go tens of thousands in debt, but can’t find a job when many would have been better off learning a trade where employment waits. Of course, colleges with their career academics and administrators worried about their jobs, continue to promote the idea more students and more college degrees are better. But the truth is, it’s a dissertation they can’t defend.

Bodhisattva 06/16/13 - 04:11 am
You are correct in that

You are correct in that students will be saddled in thousands in debt due to states defunding their education systems and causing the prices to rise and the greed and ridiculous laws related to student loans. True college educations from real colleges won't be dumbed down. For that you have the for profit model of education. Phoenix and others saw the dollar signs of government money and jumped in with both feet. Worthless degrees at exorbitant prices, but backed by lottery funds, the modern version of the GI Bill, and government backed student loans with terms in favor of the lender to the degree it's a wonder they indentured servitude to pay it back. Make a lousy business decision and lose your and hundreds of other people's money by the millions? No problem, declare bankruptcy. Not so with student loans, they stay with you until death do you part. Buy a house and interest rates drop? No problem refinance. Rates fall and you have student loans? It's like pulling teeth to get them refinanced it you can at all, and then the rate is often not the lowest market rate for other loans. The throw in Phoenix and the rest of the for profits. This is where the highest default rate on student loans exists. Fake colleges, fake degrees. They learned fast that to gain accreditation is to find small private schools that are already accredited, but suffering financial problems and about to go under, and buy the heck out of them. Also, unfortunately, they put the hard sell on a lot of people who should go to community college, trade school, or the work force, not a traditional college, as long as they qualify for student loan that is. The bright spot, unless there's a newer story I'm unaware of, is that Phoenix may be on the verge of losing accreditation. Wiping out the for profit sector will go a long way to straightening out the higher education system.

Dixieman 06/16/13 - 05:32 pm
Dixieman got lotsa points and degrees...

...from Georgia public schools and Georgia public colleges. This would be a disturbing article and the comments above interesting and thought-provoking, if only I could read!

seenitB4 06/16/13 - 08:21 am
The public is dumbed down about this...

Yes yes ..a college degree is very important IF it is actually earned & put to use...
I have seen a lot of dumb clucks with college degrees....some right here in the metro Atlanta area ....some on the school boards in DeKalb & Clayton counties....can't work a budget----can't plan for the future needs---can't regulate spending but lordy they have that piece of Riverman's post....some need a trade to survive the world we live in today.....a good paying trade that they want to do......stop playing into the game of make believe......SOME common sense goes a loooonnng way.

lboogie618 06/16/13 - 09:07 am
There are many with college

There are many with college degrees who are educated idiots.

Pops 06/16/13 - 12:09 pm
Eric Holder

comes to mind......

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/16/13 - 12:53 pm
Pointy-Headed Bureaucrat

Some pointy-head in Washington's Dept. of Education came up with the 60 percent with a college diploma by 2020 goal; and Tracey McManus seems to think it means something. The bureaucrat just pulled the goal out of thin air. It means nothing.

prov227 06/16/13 - 04:07 pm
That's why ...

the Federal Department of Education needs to go. It protects mediocrity and wastes millions on "new" programs.

Young Fred
Young Fred 06/17/13 - 12:41 am

...spanked the nail. err, I mean wet the mail...


It's a good thing to be exposed to a variety. Too bad todays higher education smacks more of indoctrination than critical thinking. Heck, true critical thinking skills will get your name on an IRS list, along with your very own NSA archive.

Higher education is almost always a good thing, if, if the educatee can step back and evaluate with open eyes.

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