By Dr. Stas Preczewski, President – Georgia Gwinnett College
A bachelor’s degree is a powerful thing.
It opens doors to careers, significantly increases one’s earning potential, reduces the likelihood of unemployment, and raises the standard of living for one’s family. An educated workforce attracts more business to the community, leading to greater economic prosperity for all.
It is no understatement that education is the most important factor in the success of individuals, families and communities.
However, when speaking to GGC applicants, I actually don’t stress the importance of going to college. I tell them that it is imperative that they graduate from college.
Almost half of U.S. college students never graduate. This has been a pattern in higher education for decades, and why Georgia Governor Nathan Deal introduced the Complete College Georgia initiative. Our citizens, communities and local, state and national economies will all benefit if more college students graduate.
When Georgia Gwinnett College was founded 10 years ago, it was envisioned as an innovative model for 21st Century higher education. GGC was built from the ground up for individual student success – no matter the level of academic preparation, learning style, work schedule or financial barrier – factors that directly impact graduation rates.
We are by far the state’s most affordable bachelor’s degree-granting institution. Our access mission enables us to welcome all students, from those who want more challenge to those who need a little more support to succeed.
In fact, we invest heavily in student success programs, spending several million dollars annually on services that provide all students the support they need. Weekend and evening classes make college possible for the nearly 40 percent of our students who work at least part-time.
Our efforts have resulted in retention rates of almost 70 percent, with nearly 20 percent more staying in college after transfer. Perhaps most notable – and the clearest evidence of why engagement matters – specialized advising enables our most at-risk
students to retain at an astounding 87 percent (2014-15).
“Student engagement” defines the culture at Georgia Gwinnett. This is important because an engaged student is more likely to stay in college and graduate. Our faculty are recruited, evaluated and rewarded based on their ability to effectively engage students. And it works. In a recent engagement survey (see next page), our seniors scored their GGC engagement experiences among the nation’s best.
I’m also proud to report that 42 percent of our students are the first generation of their families to go to college. That first degree has a way of setting an expectation that future generations will also go to college and graduate.
Georgia Gwinnett is changing the landscape of higher education by minimizing the barriers to graduation, and that in turn transforms lives, families and communities. And with the continued support of the Gwinnett community, we will do so for years to come.