Skip to content Skip to navigation

Completion by Performance

To improve college completion, aspects of higher education must be redesigned within the context of creating a more effective system. This plan includes work to improve performance in three ways:

Transforming Remediation

Students admitted to college, but unprepared in mathematics, reading, or writing receive remediation, also known as learning support. These courses, although delivered at a college, do not count toward degree and certificate program credit hours, but serve as an important pathway for students who would otherwise not be given the opportunity to complete college.

The current scale of remediation at Georgia’s institutions emphasizes again the importance of including preparation in K-12 as a part of a comprehensive college completion plan. Both of the University System of Georgia’s two-year colleges provide remediation to 59 percent of entering students, and its 14 state colleges provide remediation to 48 percent of entering students. All 25 institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia provide remediation to 26 percent of first- time entry students.

Outcome evaluations reveal that current methods of remedial education must be changed to meet college completion goals. For example, students receiving remedial education at the University System of Georgia in bachelor’s degree programs have a completion rate of 24 percent within six years. Students receiving remedial education entering associate’s degree programs at either the Technical College System or the University System, have a completion rate of 7 percent within three years.

Georgia established a Transforming Remediation Work Group as part of its commitment to Complete College America. The following key recommendations of that taskforce have been incorporated into current efforts and future work:

  • Define college readiness and take appropriate actions in K-12 to ensure that graduates are college-ready
  • Change assessment and placement policies and practices for students applying to college to clarify what constitutes readiness for success in the first year of college
  • Develop alternative pathways for students who are significantly behind
  • Restructure traditional remediation using customized pedagogical approaches

Both the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia have taken steps on the recommendation to restructure traditional remediation. This work includes the sharing of best practices through statewide conferences held in 2011 by each System with nationally recognized speakers and institutions.

Through a recent grant from Complete College America, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia will also work together to transform remediation in line with the Working Group’s recommendations. Over the next two years, two institutions from each System will pilot total transformations of remediation and disseminate the work statewide.

Within the University System of Georgia, the focus will be on modularization of courses, creation of alternate paths for those students significantly behind,
development of options to work at one’s own pace, and integration of support to teach success skills. Pilot projects at the College of Coastal Georgia and Georgia Gwinnett College will begin in 2012. After the grant, beginning around 2013, the work will be expanded statewide. The University System of Georgia has also made changes to its learning support policies, and will continue to review them within the context of transforming remediation for completion, for purposes of aligning them with new methods and the latest evidence.

The Technical College System of Georgia will begin implementation of a redesign of remedial English, math, and reading using proposed recommendations from the Work Group and the President’s Council Learning Support Task Force. The focus will be on development of content modules so that a student may progress at his or her own pace. In addition, new diagnostic tools will be developed to pinpoint which modules are required based on a student’s needs. The early months of 2012 will focus on curriculum development and logistics, with a pilot program at Athens
Technical College and DeKalb Technical College set to begin summer of 2012, with expanded implementation later in 2012.

The more time it takes to graduate, the less likely a student is to complete a certificate or degree. Events and demands outside the classroom can complicate college success, especially for students balancing school, work, and families.
Delays increase costs to both the students and the state. By designing clear paths for students to complete certificate and degree programs more efficiently, Georgia can help more students earn degrees and control costs for both students and taxpayers.

Complete College America recommends that states use a variety of strategies to shorten the time to a certificate or degree. These strategies include, among
others: reducing unnecessary taking of courses, improving transfer policies, and expanding alternative pathways for students to earn college credits.

Shortening the Time to Degree

The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia plan to shorten the time to certificates and degrees through three areas of work: 1) expansion of articulation and transfer agreements (see appendix under “Articulation Agreement”), 2) construction of a student-centered transfer portal, and 3) expansion of Prior Learning Assessment.

Student-Centered Transfer Portal

Having robust transfer and articulation agreements in place is important, but delivering accurate and timely information to students to inform their decision- making and ensure the shortest time to a degree is also important. GATRACS, the Georgia Transfer and Articulation Cooperative Services group consists of the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Department of Education, and Georgia Student Finance Commission, and is currently funded through the College Access Challenge Grant. The goal of the collaborative is to make transfer easier for Georgia students, potentially leading to increased college completion rates. GATRACS will release a web portal, housed as part of GACollege411, that will enable students to submit their college courses and grades and immediately have access to information showing to which institutions their credits will transfer.

Prior Learning Assessment

Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA, provides a pathway to enable millions of students who have stopped short of a degree, but have acquired knowledge through other means, the chance to complete their education. In terms of
spending, 65 percent of postsecondary learning takes place through the workplace and other training.15 Postsecondary learning is also acquired through informal lifelong learning. Awarding credit where knowledge already exists creates an attractive option for potential students, especially adults, and shortens the time to degree.

The University System of Georgia seeks to expand the use of Prior Learning Assessment and will:

  • Increase by 50 percent the number of institutions with PLA-friendly policies and practices by 2013
  • Increase by 20 percent the number of credits students receive through PLA, including CLEP, AP, IB, portfolios, challenge exams, and military and business credentials by 2013
  • The Technical College System of Georgia will:
  • Increase by 20 percent the number of statewide course assessments by 2015
  • Increase by 20 percent the number of credits that students receive through PLA including CLEP, AP, IB, portfolios, exemption exams, military experiences, and business credentials
  • Fully implement TCSG policies and practices that are PLA friendly

Restructuring Delivery

A recent report by Complete College America suggests that restructuring not only how education is thought of, but also how it is delivered, can improve college completion and success in a timely manner.16

While the characteristics of a “traditional” college student are changing dramatically, certificate and degree programs are still being delivered much as they have for most of the 20th century. To improve low completion rates, Complete College America proposes several approaches, including:

  • Redesign course delivery. Courses should be delivered through a mix of blended in-person and online experiences. Scheduling should include non- traditional and block methods, which have been shown to be particularly effective in increasing completion rates for adult and part-time students.
  • Maximize the value of long-term student groupings, or cohorts. Students working in cohorts can focus on the same content and learn from and support one another.
  • Build support programs into structured course delivery models. Remedial and counseling support should be embedded into courses rather than separate.
  • Require low-performing campuses to restructure delivery. Campuses with consistently low completion rates should have the incentive, or be required, to implement new models of delivery.

University System of Georgia—Restructuring Delivery

The University System of Georgia will address the mismatch between the needs of today’s students and the current delivery models in five areas: 1) building and sustaining effective teaching, 2) exploring and expanding the use of effective models, 3) distance education, 4) adult and military outreach, and 5) science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives.

Building and Sustaining Effective Teaching

One key to greater student success and college completion is building and sustaining teaching pedagogies that engage the student learner. The University System of Georgia and its institutions will continue to support and reward faculty to enhance their teaching strategies to promote student learning that improves college and degree completion. Teaching and learning resources as well as ongoing professional development for faculty will be an integral piece to successfully meeting the goals of this completion plan.

Exploring and Expanding the Use of Effective Models

The University System of Georgia is exploring approaches to restructure delivery in conjunction with institutions and key external partners. These approaches include technology solutions, practice and process changes, institutional efficiencies, and partnerships and collaborations across systems, as well as with nontraditional educational partners. Key in this approach is an understanding of the benefits of technology, but not a sense of determinism that may limit future paths, especially given rapid technology changes. The University System of Georgia will also explore, along with its institutions, opportunities to redefine scheduling, share practices around scheduling, and foster student cohorts.

The articulation agreement between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia in itself constitutes a restructuring of delivery, providing options for students to earn a degree through coursework outside a single institution or system.

A range of University System of Georgia institutions and centers are exploring different solutions to restructure delivery, including data driven enhancements (Georgia Gwinnett College, Valdosta State University, Georgia State University), educational policy (University of Georgia), and technology (Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology).

The Center for 21st Century Universities, in particular, is exploring a number of technology-driven innovations. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a virtual delivery model that allows participation in learning activities at convenient places and times, rather than forcing students into set timeframes. MOOCs, along with blended learning, which combines online and face-to-face interactions, can facilitate widespread, often global collaboration with other students and teams of specialized instructors. Gamification applies game-driven structures and incentives to learning. The Center is also exploring the enhanced use of experience based and group activities, alternative certification of learning objectives, as well as institutional approaches such as “markets” for learning options.

Distance Education

Nearly all University System of Georgia students use online electronic systems for services and learning. The University System of Georgia can better serve students by ramping up the use of technology to provide flexible course and program delivery options, and by fostering efficient development and use of shared resources.
In this focus area to restructure delivery, the University System of Georgia will:

  • Increase the array of online programs in traditional, compressed sessions (six to eight week, multiple start-stop dates) and hybrid formats to enable all
  • students, especially working students, adult learners and military personnel to effectively pursue college completion.
  • Implement System-level services and technology to support intra-institutional collaborative degree programs and business processes that will improve retention, progression, and graduation by making it easier for students to find, enroll in, and complete courses.
  • Expand deployment of eCore™ (Georgia’s Core Curriculum Online) and online general education options to ensure that institutions have just-in-time capacity for students’ unrestricted progression through the core curriculum.
  • Develop online, collaborative, upper division courses and majors designed to complement eCore, associate of science, associate of arts, and associate of applied science degrees to assure articulation with USG and TCSG two-year programs and increase the probability that students can sustain and achieve their educational goals.

Adult and Military Outreach

Nearly 1 million working Georgians, 22 percent of those in the workforce, have already earned some college credit, but have not completed a degree. The University System of Georgia Adult Learning Consortium, with nine participating institutions, has developed policies, practices, models, and programs, which target the needs of adult learners. Planned work includes:

  • Increase by 50 percent the number of campuses participating in the Adult Learning Consortium
  • Develop collaborative online degree programs for adults with majors/ concentrations in critical need labor fields
  • Lead public awareness campaigns to recruit returning adults
  • Continue to provide professional development and resources for faculty in best practices for adult college completion, including the recent launch of and other public awareness campaigns targeting adults with some college credits, but no degree

With more than 780,000 veterans in the state, the University System of Georgia will lead expansion of its military-friendly “Soldiers 2 Scholars” program and other statewide efforts to help those in military service make the transition to civilian life by means of a college degree. The Soldiers 2 Scholars program attracts and retains military students while creating campuses that are inviting and friendly
to military personnel and veterans. The College Access Challenge Grant funds the University System of Georgia’s adult and military outreach efforts.


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs have a high rate of students transferring to non-STEM disciplines. The initial semesters of study in the foundational mathematics and science courses are one of the reasons for high transfer rates. Non-STEM majors have difficulty successfully completing STEM courses, as evidenced by higher failure rates and lower grades. Additionally, the necessary sequencing of STEM courses, where knowledge is often required to build from course to course, creates logistical issues that can complicate a student’s path to degree completion.

The University System of Georgia will continue its STEM Initiative, this round with seven participating institutions, and provide funds and technical support for programs that improve completion rates of students in STEM degree programs and general success measures in STEM courses. A critical objective of the
STEM Initiative is to improve the completion rate in the introductory courses, through a variety of new approaches, which will increase the likelihood of college completion. In Spring 2012, as part of the Initiative, Georgia Southern University will host a Scholarship of STEM Teaching and Learning Conference to disseminate information across University System of Georgia institutions.

Along the lines of STEM literacy for non-STEM majors, the University System of Georgia has approved pilots at South Georgia College, East Georgia College, and Gainesville State College to implement Quantway, an alternative form of remedial mathematics funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Technical College System of Georgia—Restructuring Delivery

The Technical College System of Georgia’s goal is to initiate systemic change by restructuring the delivery of educational programming and services so that students can earn high demand and high wage credentials in an efficient, integrated, and seamless manner. It is in the best interests of Georgia and its students to create faster, more structured pathways to a degree or certificate. The Technical College System of Georgia’s work will focus on two areas: accelerating success, and providing greater structure and clearer pathways to completion.

Accelerating Success

Plans for accelerating success include:

  • Increase use of technology for both traditional and online delivery
  • Continue to enhance the institutions collaborative efforts on the design, development, and delivery of digital content through the Georgia Virtual Technical Connection (GVTC)
  • Design and develop blended models of content delivery based on the concept of the flipped classroom, (lecture and teaching viewed at home and performance and work completed on- campus) affording students more time on task while having access to their instructor and providing them flexibility around their off-campus schedule
  • Increase by 15 percent usage and enhancement of distance education and blended/hybrid courses allowing students more choices and access by 2015
  • Redesign basic models of delivery in both traditional, distance education, and blended courses to a more streamlined and modular approach, ensuring full usage of available technology by 2014 (Synchronous video conferencing, webinar environments, virtual office hours, learning object/content repository, etc.)
  • Re-establish and enhance the Learning Support Portal page, allowing open access to prospective and current students offering them access to resources for preparation, study, and tutorial based designed content by 2013
  • Enhance the System Level Distance Education Student Portal to increase awareness of a student’s opportunity to enroll as a transient student with sister institutions
  • Develop individual education plans for each student, with strong advising
  • Expand seamless education and articulation agreements with the University System of Georgia to reduce unnecessary taking of courses. (See articulation agreement, and GATRACS)
  • Work toward a direct transition for students from completion of a GED credential into a technical diploma, certificate or degree program, without the need for remediation
  • Developing an Accelerating Opportunity program that will dually enroll adult basic education students in adult education courses and technical certificate programs to assist students in gaining a meaningful career pathway credential

Providing Greater Structure and Clearer Pathways

Plans to provide greater structure and clearer pathways to completion include:

  • Develop cohort-based (long-term groups), accelerated programs. Peer cohorts have been noted to significantly improve retention in colleges with accelerated programs. These accelerated programs will be delivered using a cohort model in which learners will attend as a group. Courses will be scheduled during times based on cohort needs for 4-8 hour blocks, depending on the program requirements.
  • Facilitate a system-wide effort to implement a uniform assessment, placement, and intake process that will provide consistent college and career ready assessment and placement across the system for incoming adult education students. A uniform intake and advising process will be implemented that ensures students understand their options, and enroll in appropriate career pathways and have access to financial aid.
  • Expand the admissions/intake process to include diagnostic tools to better assess skills deficiencies for placement in the program or appropriate remediation
  • Redesign remedial education (see Transforming Remediation section)
  • Explain clearly and transparently costs and courses required to earn a degree or certificate by including this information in the advisement and education process
  • All TCSG colleges offer block scheduling. By fall 2012, TCSG will restructure the following programs using block scheduling at all 25 institutions:
  • Accounting diploma and associate degree
  • Air conditioning diploma
  • Networking specialist diploma and associate degree
  • Medical assisting diploma