South Georgia State College, a state college of the University System of Georgia, is a multi-campus, student-centered institution offering high-quality associate and select baccalaureate degree programs. The institution provides innovative teaching and learning experiences, a rich array of student activities and athletic programs, access to unique ecological sites, and residential options to create a diverse, globally-focused, and supportive learning environment.
(SGSC Mission Statement, approved 2012)
In academic year 2021-2022, SGSC offered three associate degree programs (A. A., A. S., and A. S. in Nursing) with twenty academic transfer pathways and eight bachelor’s degree programs (B. S. in Nursing, B. S. in Biological Sciences, B. S. in Management, B. S. in Long-Term Healthcare Management,
B. S. in Public Service Leadership, B. A. in Business & Technical Writing, B. S. in Elementary/Special Education, B. S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology). Associate’s degree-level students comprised 79% of SGSC’s fall 2021 enrollment.
SGSC’s mission, completion priorities, and student body demographics clearly align. The institution consistently enrolls primarily “traditional” students (80% fall 2021, excluding dual-enrolled). However, a variety of student-support services for all students is extremely important at SGSC, where for fall 2021 half of all students were Pell grant recipients (52%, excluding dual-enrolled), well over one-third of entering freshmen were enrolled in an LS math corequisite course, and over one-third were first-generation college students (36%, excluding dual-enrolled). Such student demographic data has led SGSC to employ Momentum Year/Mindset strategies focusing on helping at-risk students to succeed and earn a degree.
The “Enrollment and Demographic Trends” and “Underserved Enrollment Trends” tables (Appendix tables A and B, respectively) provide a good look at the SGSC student body’s characteristics. In addition to the data in the tables, it is noteworthy that currently SGSC enrolls students from approximately 70% of the 159 Georgia counties, 22 other states, and 13 other countries. The students represented in these enrollment figures help “to create a diverse, globally-focused learning environment” (SGSC Mission Statement).
Benchmark, Aspirational, and Competitor Institution and Student Achievement
In selecting a benchmark, aspirational, and competitor institution, SGSC focused on performance in three specific areas related to student success. As required in SACS COC standards (8.1, Student Achievement), all three areas are identified in the SGSC website’s information on student achievement. Because SGSC is, like her seven sister institutions in the USG’s state college sector, primarily an associate’s degree-granting institution with a select number of bachelor’s degree programs (see Mission Statement), the retention and graduation rate student achievement focus is on associate’s degree-seeking students. Among the measures included in SGSC’s student achievement goals are the following (achievement targets are discussed below):
In previous years’ annual CCG reports, these three student achievement measures have been considered within the separate strategy of “academic advising.” That strategy is now being addressed in relation to student achievement aspirations and promoting fuller student schedules and Area A completion. Although budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic have eliminated all but two of SGSC’s professional advisors, necessitating a return to a faculty advising model, we continue to employ efficient academic advising to help eliminate barriers to student progress and to bolster student retention and graduation rates.
Since SGSC is a member institution of the University System of Georgia and is classified by the System as one of eight “state colleges,” all of whom have quite similar missions and follow the same USG directives, policies, goals, initiatives, and strategic plan, it makes sense to choose benchmark, aspirational, and competitor institutions from among the USG state colleges. That sector’s data on the bulleted student achievement measures above identifies Georgia Highlands as a high-performing institution in the state college sector and a good benchmark, aspirational, and competitor institution.
The data in Appendix table C shows that the one-year institution-specific retention rate for SGSC’s FTFT associate degree-seeking students has remained consistent at a 47% six-year average from fall 2016 through fall 2021 cohorts, while the institution-specific average for all eight USG state colleges for the same period was 54%. The Georgia Highlands average for the period was 64%, well above the SGSC and System averages. SGSC’s goal is a one-year FTFT associate’s degree-seeking student retention rate of 55% for the fall 2025 student cohort, and the fall 2021 cohort rate of 50.3% is a good start from the 47% average for the previous five years.
While the SGSC-specific one-year retention rate for FTFT degree-seeking students has been consistently lower than the average for all eight USG state colleges, the one-year retention rate of former SGSC students within the USG over the six-year period averages 64%, while for the same period the average for all USG state colleges is 62.5%. Given the A. A. and A. S. transfer mission of USG state colleges and the ease of transfer among USG institutions facilitated by a common core curriculum, it is significant that SGSC prepares students well for receiving institutions. SGSC’s goal is to maintain a one-year retention rate within the USG of 65% by the fall 2025 cohort.
The three-year graduation rate data in Appendix table D compares the six-year SGSC rates to the average rates for the same period for all eight USG state colleges. “Institution-specific” refers to students graduating from SGSC, “System-wide for SGSC” refers to former SGSC students who graduate from any USG institution, and “System-wide for all state colleges” refers to students who began at a USG institution, transferred to another USG institution, and graduated from the USG institution to which they transferred.
The data in the table shows that the three-year institution-specific graduation rate for SGSC’s FTFT associate degree-seeking students is at a six-year average of 16.4% (fall 2014 through fall 2019 cohorts), while the institution-specific average for all eight USG state colleges is 15.3% for the same period. The Georgia Highlands State College average rate for the six-year period is 18%, significantly higher than the average SGSC and state college rates. The rationale for an SGSC metric goal of a 20% three-year FTFT associate’s degree-seeking student graduation rate for the fall 2023 cohort is based on the fall 2019 cohort rate of 20%, which is above the Georgia Highlands fall 2019 rate of 19.7% and the highest three-year graduation rate in the state college sector for the fall 2019 cohort. Georgia Highlands had the second-highest fall 2019 rate in our sector.
It is noteworthy that SGSC’s institution-specific graduation rate typically exceeds the average graduation rate for all USG state colleges. In addition, the rate for the most recent student cohort of former SGSC students transferring to other USG state colleges (fall 2019, 20.3%) exceeds the average rate for all USG state college associate’s degree-seeking students transferring within the System (fall 2019, 16.4%).
The percentage change in the number of degrees awarded can be compared among the eight state college sector institutions to give a good idea of how SGSC performs with that perhaps most important student achievement metric. Appendix table E shows the total number of degrees (certificates excluded), as well as the number and percentage change for the period FY 2019 through FY 2022 for the eight USG state college sector institutions. It is noteworthy that only two institutions show a positive change in the number of degrees awarded during the period (Coastal Georgia and Georgia Highlands)., SGSC shows the smallest decline by far (-.27%) among the other six institutions. The comparison period obviously spans the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which probably best explains the decline in degrees awarded—just as similar declines in enrollment during this period are probably best attributed to the pandemic.
Appendix table F demonstrates that declining enrollment does not necessarily result in fewer degrees conferred. In fact, the Degrees Conferred by Degree Offered table shows that the reverse was true at SGSC for the five-year period FY 2017 through FY 2021, during which SGSC had a significant increase in the number of degrees awarded. However, FY 2022 shows a decrease in degrees awarded, undoubtedly related to the enrollment decreases experienced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past several years of Momentum/Mindset focus, there has been a significant increase in the number and type of student success strategies created to foster student achievement. The two SGSC campuses have academic success tutoring centers, STEM centers, writing centers, and 24/7 tutoring availability through tutor.com. In addition, there is a student success program for residential students on the Douglas Campus (there are no residence halls on the Waycross Campus). SGSC would like to increase the number of degrees awarded to 400 for FY 2023, but this measure is highly dependent on enrollment.
The following SGSC student success inventory update discusses the strategies included in the SGSC Momentum Plan 2022 template. Rather than devote unnecessary space to reproducing the template and permitting some detail, the update is in narrative form with appended data tables.
The strategies reviewed are as follows:
As reported in last year’s annual college completion report, the SGSC “Big Idea” from the Momentum Summit is the development of a “Concierge Coaching” model to help at-risk students in their journey while at SGSC, thereby providing an additional layer of support and connection for these students. The College launched a pilot of the Concierge Coaching program during summer semester 2021, targeting 21 first-time matriculating students with high school GPAs of 2.5 or below and assigning each student to one of 22 coaches. We understand that high school GPA may no longer be a good predictor of student success, but we have chosen it as a starting point and anticipate that going above 2.5 would create a coaching availability issue. The initial coaching program outcomes have remained the same during the past academic year and are as follows:
Students in the Concierge Coaching program will--
SGSC is currently determining benchmarks and metrics to measure the degree to which students meet the above outcomes, especially the last two, and to measure the program’s impact on student GPA and persistence each semester. Data gathered for academic year 2021-2022, including summer term 2022, provides a starting point for SGSC’s development of metrics and data results. Appendix table G shows the numbers of students placed on academic probation or suspension and assigned to coaches for each term of the academic year, the students’ average previous term and end-of-term semester and institutional grade point averages, the number and percentage of students converting to “good standing” by the end of each term, and progression percentages. Notably, in the case of grade point averages, each of the three semesters shows a gain, even though the gains are admittedly small. The SGSC Academic Affairs and Student Success staff are currently discussing developing strategies to address good standing and progression percentages.
A survey of students engaged in the academic year 2021-2022 concierge coaching program addresses the first three bulleted outcomes above. Appendix table H contains survey questions and average student rating responses for each question. Overall, the survey response data show that participating students were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Concierge Coaching and are developing a positive mindset toward SGSC’s services and attitude toward student success. For fall 2021 and fall 2022, student responses to every survey item average in the “satisfied” category.
In addition to the student satisfaction survey, a survey of coach perceptions of the program was also administered following spring semester 2022. After identifying the academic term to which the survey responses apply (Q1), coaches responded to the following six open-ended questions:
Representative examples of coach responses, together with the question number for each remark, are as follows:
“I have liked that it [the program] gives me a way to reach out to students and let them know directly about the services we offer at the college to help them.” (Q2)
“Students do not always respond to the outreach efforts of the coach.” (Q3)
“Tell students to call on their coach at the beginning of the semester. Encourage the students to reach out and own the support. Provide some incentives for them to reach out.” (Q4)
“Coaches need to continue to meet periodically to share ideas on how to reach out/help students.” (Q4)
“Have a meet and greet for students and coaches so that they can put a face and name to each other.” (Q4)
“Continue to have periodic meetings to get feedback on what we have observed and to share ideas on how to reach out and help students.” (Q5)
“I’m not sure how they would feel about one of their peers knowing their issues with study habits, grades, etc.” (Q6)
“I think they may be more responsive to their peers because it is someone who understands more of where they are coming from. The student may also feel that a peer will be friendlier to approach for help less intimidating than a faculty/staff member.” (Q6)
“In theory, the model is sound and effective, but in reality, we must find ways to encourage students to participate in their own academic progress. Perhaps the coach can serve as liaison between students and professors so that the students see the coach as being able to support them in approaching the professor. Including a student’s professor in the conversation about a student’s academic progress would encourage the student to rely on the coach.” (Q7)
Project lead/point of contact: Ms. Brandi Elliott, Associate Vice President of Student Success, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accomplishments during academic year 2021-2022: release and scale of Mindset BOOST workshops:
The SGSC STEM Grant team designed and implemented virtual and in-person workshops to promote a positive academic mindset (GPS). In academic year 2019-2020, we held five BOOST workshops attended by 102 STEM students and held four virtual workshops for academic year 2020-2021. However, no one attended any of those workshops. This was the height of the pandemic and participation was non-existent. Several informal discussions with students suggest three reasons for the low attendance of the synchronous virtual workshops:
During Fall 2021, we offered the asynchronous virtual workshop post-midterm as a “Grade First Aid” style intervention with 114 students participating. Of those, 55 were in a STEM course. Appendix table I, fall 2021, shows DFW rates for those specific STEM courses. Those who participated had a significantly lower DFW rate than those who did not.
During Spring 2022, we again offered the asynchronous virtual workshop, but this time we opened this workshop, plus an additional workshop on time management, at the Early Alert deadline, approximately one month before midterm. Before the midterm, 202 students participated, and an additional 104 participated after the midterm date. Of the 306 total participants, 60 were enrolled in a STEM course. Appendix table J, Spring 2022, shows DFW rates for those specific STEM courses. Again, it is clear that those who participated had a significantly lower DFW rate in most courses than those who did not participate.
Session titles and attendance numbers for AY 2019-2020, 2020-2021, & 2021-2022 are in Appendix Table K.
Accomplishments during academic year 2021-2022: provide Mindset training focused on promoting growth mindset college-wide for faculty:
During fall 2021, ten faculty, which grew to 16 during the Spring of 2022 from the School of Arts and Sciences, collected data on a series of mindset-promoting interventions/activities.
An example of one of their plans is as follows:
During Spring 2022, this effort reached over 700 unique students (Douglas, Waycross, Valdosta Entry Program, online).
Plans and challenges for the current academic year (2022-2023):
Project lead/point of contact: Dr. Katy Dye, Assistant Professor of Biology, Kathryn.email@example.com
Advisor training to help students create fuller schedules and to promote Area A completion is on the training calendar. During spring semester 2021, this topic was covered in Momentum Year training along with Focus Areas. The training is to be recorded and placed with other advisor training videos on Georgia View.
Accomplishments during academic year 2021-2022:
SGSC is exploring how best to use data related to student academic scheduling in reports from Navigate. We are establishing report cycles for data collection and analysis and developing a process for publishing and disseminating data findings for faculty and staff. Data analysis will result in creating the ongoing action plans at appropriate institutional levels.
Data on student enrollment in 15 or more credit hours is in Appendix table L. The rate of enrollments in 15 or more credit hours declined for fall 2020, undoubtedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and SGSC’s move to online-only classes. At the same time, however, the fall 2021 rate at which students successfully completed 15 or more hours (58.30%) was at its highest since fall 2015 and well above the 2018 lowest point of 35.40% (Appendix table M).
Use Navigate to encourage Area A completion
Academic advisor training in Area A completion is ongoing. In training, we cover how to advise students who were not successful in Area A classes or classes to be completed the previous semester or within 30 hours of enrollment. In addition, advisor training includes recognizing classes appropriate for a particular student’s academic pathway.
SGSC intends to explore the ability to mine data related to the reports listed from Navigate, establish report cycles for data collection and analysis, publish and disseminate findings to faculty and staff, and create ongoing action plans based on the data and at appropriate levels.
The Area A completion audit in Appendix table N shows Areas A1, A2, and A (total) completion data. Notably, the total Area A completion rate has more than doubled from the fall 2013 rate of 25.74% to the fall 2020 rate of 53.29%, but the rate declined slightly (3.41%) for fall 2021.
Plans and challenges for the current academic year (2022-2023):
Project lead/point of contact: Ms. Brandi Elliott, Associate Vice President for Academic Success, firstname.lastname@example.org
The SGSC Career Services Coordinator has been collaborating with other staff members to develop collaborative career programming through alumni involvement in disseminating the career information.
Such involvement focuses on alumni guest speakers, guest panels, and guest interaction with students. Office of Student Success personnel and current and former STEM Center Coordinators are engaged in STEM career services programming. Career Services activities also include workshops on resume writing and soft skills development.
Accomplishments during academic year 2021-2022:
Plans and challenges for the current academic year (2022-2023):
Project lead/point of contact: Mr. David Butler, Senior Coordinator of Career and Academic Advising for Student Success, David.email@example.com
As reported in last year’s college completion update, “Undergraduate Student Research” was SGSC’s recently-concluded Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) topic. The SGSC QEP continues to be included here as a High Impact Practice because it has significantly affected SGSC culture and mindset.
Purpose and Outcomes of the QEP: SGSC recognizes an obligation to help students gain a solid foundation of research skills to prepare them for the future; studies on undergraduate research demonstrate that student participation in this activity promotes student engagement and achievement.
The purpose of the QEP is reflected in the student learning outcomes: (1) to identify ethical research practices, (2) to generate answerable research questions, (3) to analyze prior research, (4) to develop a hypothesis from a research question, (5) to construct a research plan, (6) to collect relevant data, (7) to analyze relevant data, (8) to draw appropriate conclusions based on analysis, (9) to present research.
Appendix Table O shows the degree to which students enrolled in QEP-infused courses achieved the target outcome of 70% of students achieving a rubric rating of “good” or “excellent” for each outcome. As reported last year, the data shows clearly that by the last two years of the QEP, the level of student achievement for each of the nine outcomes was met.
Ongoing accomplishments: Undergraduate Research symposia and campus culture/mindset:
Since the initial implementation of the QEP, an SGSC student research symposium has taken place each semester, even after the required five years of the QEP. The purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for students to present their research to the SGSC community and interested residents of surrounding communities. Any student may engage in research to be presented, and each presenter has a faculty mentor. Participation has grown significantly over the years. The spring 2019 symposium was attended by a record 402 faculty, staff, students, and community members. The fall 2020 event had 396 attendees—even though the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting student enrollment, course delivery, and participation in campus events. The spring 2021 symposium, also during a COVID-19 semester, had an attendance of 314, including 272 students. When the number of attendees who came to more than one day of the symposium is counted for multiple visits, the total session attendance number for spring 2021 was 2,423. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected symposia, fall 2021 and spring 2022 presentations numbered 50 each semester, and attendance was 238 for fall and 251 for spring. We anticipate that presentations and attendance will recover to pre-pandemic numbers and that student interest will continue to impact student engagement and success. However, we have significant challenges going forward, as discussed below.
Plans and challenges for the current academic year (2022-2023):
Since the implementation of G2C’s “Gateways to Completion” in 2018, the initiative sought to improve student performance in foundational high-enrollment and high-risk courses through course redesign, predictive analytics and improved teaching and learning pedagogy. G2C provided faculty with processes, instructional and curricular guidance, and analytics tools to redesign teaching, learning, and success in high-risk gateway courses. The initiative’s progress and success have been reported yearly in SGSC’s annual CCG Report, but it is now retired and will no longer be included in CCG updates.
Student response to the fall 2021 mindset surveys was the lowest SGSC response rate since the initial implementation of the survey. SGSC needs help in developing strategies for encouraging student participation. Perhaps institutions that have had success with student survey participation could share their process for achieving positive results. The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly had an adverse effect on participation in the survey over the past two years. Another significant and related occurrence is that SGSC had no Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Research for spring and summer 2021 and the entire academic year 2021-2022 due to our director’s severe COVID-19 effects that necessitated leaving the position. Due to budget cuts, we currently have a shared Institutional effectiveness staff member from Coastal Georgia who provides SGSC data effectively.
Because student response to the fall 2021 surveys was so small (1 student took the early fall survey; 11 students took the late fall survey; 0 students took both), the data generated is meaningless. Consequently, SGSC cannot report on Mindset Survey results beyond those already discussed in last year’s college completion report (Appendix Table P).
Appendix Table Q contains the names of and contact information for SGSC Completion Team Leaders.