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Program targets grad rates

Date September 11, 2012 
Section(s) Local News 
Byline By MICHAEL HALL The Brunswick News  

Leaving Altamaha Technical College before becoming a registered nurse is not an option for 24-year-old student Chantel Alston.

"You can't start something and not finish it," Alston said. "I am going to graduate."

When she finishes at Altamaha Tech, which is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, Alston hopes to add to her nursing education at a school like four-year College of Coastal Georgia, a University System of Georgia institution.

Officials from both college systems are hoping to see more students like Alston in coming years if they are to meet Gov. Nathan Deal's call to produce an additional 25,000 graduates by 2020 as part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative to improve the state's competitiveness. The initiative is part of the national Complete College America campaign.

The process by which member colleges in both organizations will meet those goals were released Monday by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

The two reports, totaling more than 1,000 pages, explain in detail how colleges will address issues of student retention, timely graduation and the number of students in need of remediation.

For Altamaha Tech Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Lonnie Roberts, the plan will mean focusing more on numbers than ever before.

"We are becoming much more data driven," Roberts said. "I think we are moving towards the right area."

Using data to more closely monitor student progress and identify educational needs will help the technical college ensure students remain on track for a timely graduation, Roberts said.

Additionally, now that the technical college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, credits between technical colleges and four-year colleges will transfer easier, Roberts said.

"It is a new approach in that there is a lot more collaboration with the university system," Roberts said.

The collaboration will help schools like College of Coastal Georgia find students who are better prepared for the rigors of a four-year baccalaureate degree.

"It's hard to be successful if you come to college and aren't ready to learn at the college level," said Valerie Hepburn, president of College of Coastal Georgia.

Those who might not thrive in a purely academic environment might be better suited for the workforce development track provided by technical colleges, Hepburn said.

"We would rather help direct some people into that route if they will be successful there," Hepburn said.

Doing so means both institutions will get students who are in a good position to finish with some sort of post secondary credential, she said.

Having more people with some level of completed college degree, whether it's a certificate or an associate or a bachelor's degree, will improve the area's chances for economic development, Hepburn said.

In Glynn County, more than 20 percent of the population has some college education but no degree, according to 2010 census data.

Hepburn said College of Coastal Georgia and Altamaha Technical College have met to discuss how to attract some of those people back to college to complete their education.

"We need to send the call out to our business community to send their people back to finish their degrees," Hepburn said.


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