Originally created 11/16/00

Freshman set record for SAT scores



ATLANTA - Freshmen at the 34 schools in the University System of Georgia set a record for the highest Scholastic Assessment Test scores in the system's history, officials said Wednesday.

The average SAT score for the system rose to 1,021 with this year's freshman class, surpassing the national average and beating last year's system average of 1,016.

With 88 percent of the system's student population hailing from Georgia, the record-setting scores reflect a recent five-point gain in the state's average SAT score. State Superintendent Linda Schrenko announced in August the state's average SAT score hit 974.

Augusta State University's average score was 980, a drop of one point from fall 1999.

"I am pleased that the University System has moved above the national average, and also encouraged by the fact that each year more of our institutions are able to attract students with stronger academic preparation," Chancellor Stephen Portch said during Wednesday's Board of Regents meeting.

Georgia Department of Education officials said several factors have contributed to higher SAT scores and better prepared high school graduates.

"Students have access to more rigorous courses, and more kids are in those rigorous courses," said David Harmon, director of research, evaluation and testing. "As a result of Superintendent Schrenko's initiative supporting legislation to fully fund advanced placement exams ... more students are taking those tests."

He also said more students now take the PSAT, or preparatory SAT, before they take the exam most often used to measure students' academic strengths.

"I think the scores also speak well, too, of the teachers teaching the Quality Core Curriculum and students working hard," he said.

As of this fall, 11 state institutions have an average SAT score of more than 1,000.

Armstrong Atlantic State University's score jumped 66 points, to 1,028. Georgia Tech topped out at an average score of 1,329.

Also at Wednesday's Board of Regents meeting, officials highlighted more data from the system's intensive evaluation of itself against national peers.

Georgia's colleges and universities are retaining freshman students for their sophomore year at an excellent pace, while some institutions lag behind when it comes to graduation.

A 78 percent freshman retention rate indicates that the system's increased admission standards and education reforms are working, said Dan Papp, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.

"These rates have been increasing since (the) HOPE (Scholarship program) began and since we increased our admission requirements," Dr. Papp said. "But we are, admittedly, in some instances below our peers."

Augusta State was one of four schools in the University System of Georgia to fell below the state's normative retention range of 62.3 percent to 82.1 percent. Three schools, Augusta State, Clayton State and Columbus State, are commuter colleges.

"We didn't know how the other institutions did, but we've known for some time that our enrollment was down this fall," said William Bloodworth, president of Augusta State. "We were disappointed because our enrollment had increased last fall, following a decrease the year before - like other institutions - when we began offering courses on the semester system."

Dr. Bloodworth said his staff believes the decrease occurred because potential students would rather work than go to school.

"We know that any institution with large numbers of part-time and nontraditional students is likely to be influenced by changes in the local economy and by any competition from other institutions," he said. "In Augusta we know in the past year there's been a fairly dramatic drop in the unemployment rate which has provided more people than ever before with the opportunity to work, or keep on working. So we suspect that has had some impact on enrollment."

Staff writer Faith Johnson contributed to this article.

Reach Shannon Womble at (404) 589-8424.

Augusta State University

Enrollment

Fall 2000 - 5,090

Fall 1999 - 5,405

Percent Change -5.8

Average SAT

Fall 2000 - 980

Fall 1999 - 981

All 13 state universities

Enrollment

Fall 2000 - 65,650

Fall 1999 - 65,180

Percent Change 0.7

Average SAT

Fall 2000 - 986

Fall 1999 - 976

University System

Enrollment

Fall 2000 - 205,878

Fall 1999 - 203,806

Percent Change 1.0

Average SAT

Fall 2000 - 1,021

Fall 1999 - 1,016