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2014 August 20 - 04:09 pm

Georgia Pushes Adults To Finish College Programs

‘Go Back Move Ahead’ Campaign Aims To Assist Those Near a Degree

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia education officials launched a new campaign encouraging adults who started but never earned a college degree to finish. Those people are essential to meeting the state’s ambitious goals for more residents with post-high school education and to the state’s economy long term.

According to a projection by national nonprofit Complete College America, 61 percent of jobs in Georgia will require education past high school by 2020. But about 1.1 million Georgians between 25 and 64 have some college credit but no degree or certificate in the latest U.S. Census results.

The challenge for Georgia’s technical colleges and state universities is first reaching those students and then providing the support they need to earn a certificate or a diploma.

The “Go Back Move Ahead” campaign creates a call center potential students can contact for a referral to a specific campus. From there, campus staff have to form a support system for returning students, said Houston Davis, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University System of Georgia.

Each campus in the state university system and technical college system has assigned a point person for returning students. They plan to emphasize flexible class schedules or help students find campus satellite locations and online options.

“A marketing campaign is a shiny object to catch attention,” Davis said. “What’s really important is that we are able to serve that student.”

At a news conference announcing the program, two students who returned to higher education as adults in Georgia encouraged others to try it. Mark Smith began classes at Valdosta State University “as a 45-year-old freshman” after a career in the Air Force. He wasn’t certain he had the technical or academic skills to complete a degree program.

Smith, who now works for the university as an adult admissions counselor, said the student success center provided tutors and other services that helped him finish.

“Life has come full circle,” he said.

Officials with both Georgia higher education systems say they’re competing with aggressive marketing by for-profit programs as students look for affordable and quick options. Pamela Tate, president and CEO of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, said financial or family issues often are the cause of students dropping out of college and the idea of returning can be overwhelming without strong guidance from a school’s staff.

“It seems as if governors, legislative bodies, industry leaders — all of them are recognizing you need to have a population in the country with post-secondary credentials or we’re not going to meet employers’ needs,” Tate said.

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