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UGA to expand research goals

Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 1:45 PM
Last updated 7:36 PM
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ATHENS, Ga. -- A new University of Georgia strategic plan calls for big investment in research — hiring star researchers, new and renovated buildings, increasing graduate enrollment and paying more of them scholarship and assistantship money.

To move into the ranks of the world’s elite research universities, UGA must improve its research and graduate programs to match previous advances in undergraduate education, according to the new update of the UGA Strategic Plan.

“In addition, the output of UGA’s research enterprise heavily influences our status in world rankings of research universities, and is likely to determine whether UGA is invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities,” according to a written introduction.

But a chart that’s part of the report may spell trouble for the future outlined in the document, up for adoption at UGA’s next University Council meeting on Wednesday.

After years of state budget cuts, UGA will get about $389 million this year, down from $442 million in 2002, according to a chart summarizing UGA’s funding sources.

UGA’s budget has gone up nearly 50 percent anyway, up from $951 million in 2002 to $1.4 billion this year, mainly because student fees and tuition costs tripled between 2000 and now.

In 2000, state appropriations made up about 43.4 percent of UGA’s budget; now state money accounts for about 30 percent. The share paid by tuition and fees increased from about 13 percent to about 28 percent in that time.

UGA income from gifts, grants and research contracts has stayed about the same — $279 million in 2000, $272 million in the 2011 fiscal year, according to the plan.

No one’s expecting much more money from the state in the near future, and federal funding for research grants could be down next year as well if Congress and the Obama administration try to curb the mounting federal budget deficit.

But the purpose of the strategic plan is to define where UGA wants to go, said Jerome Legge, UGA’s associate provost for academic planning.

“We’re putting the goals out there and trying to be optimistic,” said Legge, who coordinated a group of 26 faculty and administrators in putting together the 41-page plan.

When strategic planning committee members began drafting the update in 2009, they generally agreed that more research dollars should be a top priority, along with increasing graduate school enrollment, said William Vencill, the chair of the committee and a professor in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“We aren’t producing as many Ph.D. students as some of our aspirational institutions,’ Vencill said.

The plan also calls for the university to increase the number of courses students can enroll in online, including new online graduate programs. It also outlines goals for improvement in other areas, such as graduation rates, enrolling under-represented minorities and boosting the number of students who study in foreign countries.

Here are some specific benchmarks listed in the plan, meant to guide the university’s development between now and 2020:

• Increase compensation for UGA teaching assistants by 50 percent;

• Increase by 25 percent the rolls of graduate and professional students, about 8,250 now;

• Enlarge UGA’s research faculty by 15 percent;

• Move UGA from 97 now to 85 on a ranking of colleges and universities based on federal payouts for research and development;

• Develop a plan for a research park in the Riverbend Road part of campus;

• Increase the number of undergraduate students from other countries by 15 percent a year — from about 185 now to 740 by 2020;

• Increase the number of students who take service-learning courses from 21 percent in 2011 to 30 percent;

• Get UGA faculty salaries up to “average” among the university’s so-called peer institutions, those considered similar to UGA;

• Completion of the new Veterinary Medicine Learning Center, with the potential of a 50 percent increase in enrollment at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

The plan even sets forth specific sustainability goals to reach by 2020, including reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent, cutting energy consumption by 25 percent, water use by 40 percent, and increasing the amount of energy UGA purchases from renewable sources by 10 percent.

UGA should also increase its use of Georgia-grown or sustainably grown food from about 20 percent now to 35 percent, the planners said.


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