Chancellor Steve Wrigley recently announced the final recommendations from the University System of Georgia (USG)’s College 2025 Initiative.
Launched in May 2017, the College 2025 Initiative seeks to refine and improve the delivery and accessibility of public higher education to meet 21st-century learning and career needs. To be successful, institutions must maintain both cost affordability and academic quality while preparing graduates for the workforce and to be productive members of their communities.
The initiative aims to create a road map for Georgia’s public universities and colleges to address those concerns and offer a path toward real solutions.
“This is forward thinking work, a roadmap for ourselves about how to be nimbler and more efficient,” Wrigley said. “We take these recommendations seriously and will convert them into action.”
As part of the College 2025 Initiative, Wrigley created a 22-member committee of experts and leaders in higher education, industry and small business and tasked them with developing an academic plan. The plan will help USG and its institutions build on existing strengths that include institutional sectors, individual campus identities and missions, faculty expertise and the collaborative strength of the system to act as a single educational entity.
“We hope these recommendations find use and adaption throughout USG, regardless of any institution’s size, resources or access to technology,” said Georgia College & State University President Steve M. Dorman, who served as the committee’s chairman. “These ideas represent a way to think about the future with themes that might manifest themselves in almost any decision we make or problem we seek to solve in the future.”
With the completion of its report, the committee identified more than two dozen recommendations. It divided those recommendations among the four broad themes of adaptability, essential skills, lifelong learning and partnerships.
Under Adaptability, all colleges and universities in the system, the committee said, should become more adaptable in their approach to higher education including rethinking current practices, curriculum and processes. For example, the committee recommends increasing the number of entry points for admission and course study during the calendar year to accommodate potential students’ work schedules and need to acquire new job skills more quickly.
With Essential Skills, institutions should also have a plan and process in place to ensure that all students are exposed to essential skills that employers seek of its graduates. The committee said this includes making sure students are equipped with the ability to work within their discipline in concert with technology and within diverse, multi-disciplinary teams.
In Lifelong Learning, members recommend that all institutions develop robust lifelong learning activities and programs that can be incorporated throughout a lifetime and career, given that knowledge requirements may change and that the jobs of the future may demand additional education.
For Partnerships, the committee recommends all USG institutions reach out and create greater partnerships with other learning institutions, corporations, businesses, industries, professional societies and others to support and enhance academic programming.
“The picture of the future painted in this report is compelling and exciting,” said Dr. Tristan Denley, USG executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and chief academic officer. “It points the way for USG to enable a still greater audience of learners across Georgia to be more successful with their lifelong educational aspirations.”
“East Georgia State College applauds the College 2025 Committee for its vision and the USG for action it is taking to implement that vision,” said EGSC President Bob Boehmer. “The faculty learning communities being created will immediately address a critical need of our college – expanded faculty development opportunities. The new predictive analytics tools will, in the long run, enable us to more clearly focus our advising efforts and improve graduation and retention. The availability of the nexus degree will enable us to develop and propose degree programs targeting unique employer needs in rural Georgia.”
In concert with the release of the recommendations, Wrigley announced USG would begin immediate action to address some of the recommendations and work together with its institutions to address others as quickly as possible.
Initial action steps include the following: faculty development opportunities, increased student support and new degrees for high-demand jobs.
The system this fall will launch the Chancellor’s Learning Scholars program in part to address a recommendation to expand training and professional development opportunities for faculty to help them become better instructors in the classroom.
As part of the new program, each of the system’s 26 institutions will select four people who will each lead a learning community among 10 faculty members on their campus. System-wide, because of this program, over 1,000 faculty will be involved in direct conversations focused on student success.
With the committee’s recommendation for the broader use of predictive analytics tools, USG is developing a new predictive analytics platform that will enable more institutions to widely employ data-driven advising techniques that act as early alert systems for students in their academic career. Thirteen institutions will be piloting the platform this fall.
The Board of Regents recently also approved the very first nexus degrees in USG history at Albany State and Columbus State universities Columbus State’s new nexus degree will be in film production. Albany State will offer two new nexus degrees, one in blockchain with machine learning and the other in blockchain with data analytics. Nexus degrees stem from an early recommendation from the group to develop different college credentials for new or returning students who need specific skills for high-demand jobs.
EGSC Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Dr. Deborah Vess, commented, “It is important for higher education leaders to be proactive and envision the challenges facing us in the future. As workforce and other needs evolve, higher education also needs to consider how we can best foster the deep learning necessary to ensure that our students leave with the competencies that we deem important to lead a balanced and meaningful life, but also to think critically about pressing global issues, to adapt to new environments and challenges, to develop creative approaches to workforce and other needs, and to use these skills to enrich their communities for the common good. This report highlights a number of areas where our institutions will need to find new ways of reaching our students."
- A full version of the College 2025 report, including detailed recommendations and case studies, is available online here!