A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog directed at high school seniors warned students considering education beyond high school to "think deeply about which college and which major, including job prospects in that field think very hard about the debt you stand to incur."
Of course, the author is correct. Today student debt, in toto, exceeds credit debt in this country. However, "the path to prosperity," as he puts, requires a postsecondary degree now more than ever.
Back in 1973, a high school diploma qualified you for 75 percent of the available jobs in the economy. Today, 75 percent of the jobs require some sort of postsecondary degree, i.e., a certificate, associate, bachelor, or graduate degree. The economic future of Georgia really does depend on having an educated workforce. The key is, however, to help our students matriculate in a timely manner to earn that degree without incurring crippling debt.
We are aware of this balance and are working hard to find answers. For instance Columbus State University has developed an extensive array of partnerships with technical colleges, including Columbus Tech, to provide students more affordable access to certain degrees.
Additionally, we are about to embark on a whole new way of delivering a bachelor's degree. Streamlined, online and affordable, this new venture could become a national model.
The University System of Georgia, with Columbus State University as a partner, earlier this month received a next generation Learning Challenge Grant (NGLC) sponsored by EDUCAUSE, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
This grant is designed to "identify and support the highest quality Associate's and Bachelor's degree program serving disproportionately Pell-eligible students at scale, getting more of these students to a degree, and spending significantly less than average current spending for such programs -- heading toward an ultimate goal of $5,000 per year."
These are indeed ambitious goals and require us to think differently about how we deliver a degree, without sacrificing any of the quality we've established, or without decreasing the academic standards we have been building up for the last several years. We think it can be done, and fortunately so does the University System of Georgia and our funding partners on this grant, all powerful allies for CSU. We will start this venture with a BA in Communications with Civic Leadership concentration, a degree that students may be able to complete in just three years.
Anyone considering education beyond high school in Georgia is probably going to be hearing more about these kinds of options over the next few years as we all work to adopt the goals of Complete College Georgia. The main goal of this plan is to add 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state's rolls by the year 2020. They key is figuring out how to do that to meet the workforce needs of the state, while balancing our tradition of academic quality and the financial obligations of our students.
Gregory Domin, associate provost for graduate education, distance learning, and international affairs, Columbus State University.