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University of Georgia Campus Plan Update 2019

Institutional Mission and Student Body Profile

The University of Georgia—a public, research, land- and sea-grant institution with commitments and responsibilities to the entire state of Georgia—is the birthplace of higher education in the U.S. The University’s motto, “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things;” crisply captures UGA’s wide-ranging mission. This Complete College Georgia report focuses on the teaching part of the mission, especially concerning the University’s Momentum Approach Plans and efforts to improve retention, progression and completion for undergraduate students.

UGA is the state’s oldest, most comprehensive and most diversified institution of higher education with more than 10,000 faculty and staff members and over 38,000 students (undergraduate, graduate and professional, enrolled in 17 schools or colleges). It offers 25 Baccalaureate degrees in more than 143 fields and more than 250 study abroad, exchange programs, and field school opportunities. UGA is committed to providing a superior teaching and learning environment, to serving a diverse student body, and to promoting student success.

There is no single undergraduate student profile at the University of Georgia. Rather the institution is a rich tapestry of diverse students with widely varying backgrounds, interests, experiences, and challenges. In Fall 2018, the total undergraduate population numbered 29,611 students, the vast majority of whom hailed from the state of Georgia (88.6% vs. 9.8% out-of-state and 1.6% international). The majority of undergraduate students (94%) were enrolled full time; 57% were female; 31% (self-reported) were of racial/ethnic minority status. The typical UGA undergraduate was of traditional age (≤ 24 years),[1] entered as a first-year student, lived on campus for the first year, and was seeking a first undergraduate degree. The demand for a UGA degree has risen dramatically in recent years. For the class matriculating in Fall 2018, the Office of Admissions saw a 30% increase in the number of applications since 2017 and admitted 5,718 students, with an average ACT score of 30 and high school GPA of 4.04. The Office of Student Financial Aid disbursed a total of $391,735,413 of federal, state, institutional, and other/external programs to 29,276 unique undergraduate students (21% of whom received a Federal Pell Grant with over 200 students self-identifying as independent, i.e., former foster youth, wards of the court, orphans, homeless, or with legal guardians).

Despite the size of its student population, UGA maintains small class sizes, having on average 38 students per class with a 17:1 student-to-instructor ratio. The Small Class Size Initiative (SCI) is keeping that ratio low. The SCI, which was introduced in 2015-16, reduced class sizes by hiring additional faculty and creating more than 300 new course sections in high-demand classes, “bottleneck” courses, and courses that historically have had high failure rates. To cite one example, the Mathematics department received SCI funds to add sections of pre-Calculus and Calculus classes with enrollments capped at 19. The results (see Figure 1) are quite encouraging: student and faculty reaction is strongly positive; more students are progressing into the next course in the sequence on schedule and succeeding in those courses; and the full-year DF & W rates in pre-Calculus are now the lowest since 01/02, and well below the national average. The pre-Calculus program has done an excellent job using the SCI resources to reduce DF & W rates, which are now well below 10%, and is rolling out active learning methods.[2] We expect to see continued improvement moving forward.

Figure 1:

UGA Fig 1

Among public universities, the University of Georgia is one of the nation’s top three producers of Rhodes Scholars (24) over the past two decades. UGA is also home to hundreds of major scholarship winners, including: 7 Gates Cambridge Scholars, 7 Marshall Scholars, 60 Goldwater scholars, 21 Truman Scholars, 18 Udall Scholars, 56 Boren Scholars, 4 Schwarzman Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, and 171 Fulbright Student Scholars, making UGA one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright students by type of institution.[3]

UGA’s challenging learning environment and innovative programs continue to garner national attention and recognition. For example, U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 “Best Colleges” edition ranked UGA 13th among public universities; The New York Times ranked UGA 10th among public universities doing the most for low-income students; Victory Media placed it 2nd among tier one research institutions for its services to military veterans; and for the fifth consecutive year UGA received an INSIGHT into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for its efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse campus.

UGA is among institutions with the highest retention and graduation rates nationwide (see Appendix A, Table 1). It has an exceptional first-year retention rate of 96%. The time to degree has steadily declined from 4.10 years (students who graduated in 2011) to 3.99 (students who graduated in 2018, see Appendix A, Table 3).[4] The six-year completion rate remains steady at 87.1% for the 2013 cohort, and the four-year completion rate increased to 68.7% for the 2015 cohort (up from 68.0% for the 2014 cohort). UGA expects the 2017 cohort to have a 70% four-year graduation rate.

The teaching and learning environment at UGA features a large number of the high-impact practices identified by AAC&U; those most widely used include a first-year experience (our award-winning First Year Odyssey Seminar that is required of all first-year students), first-year living/learning communities, global learning,[5] service learning,[6] collaborative learning, internships,[7] and undergraduate research opportunities.[8]

A distinctive feature of every UGA undergraduate degree is the Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR) which began in Fall 2016. UGA students meet the requirement by engaging in creative endeavors, study abroad and field schools, internships, leadership opportunities, faculty-mentored research, and service-learning.[9] Since the summer of 2016, 25,123 students have completed one mode of experiential learning, and UGA has just created an opportunity for students to gain real-world experience in connection with the new Innovation District.[10] With the requirement for experiential learning, UGA took the bold move of recognizing that, for today’s students, what, how, where and when learning happens is flexible.

In Fall 2017, UGA made another bold move by launching the Double Dawgs pathways to enable students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less. To date, UGA has approved 204 Double Dawgs pathways[11] and has 843 unique students enrolled in one of the pathways. We are tracking these students to measure and assess the impact of this rigorous program on, for example, graduation rates and the transition into graduate study. Some results should be available next year when those students will begin to earn the bachelor’s degree.

The 2017 President’s Task Force on Student Learning and Success made a number of recommendations to enhance teaching and learning on campus, including the wider adoption of strategies to promote active learning in more courses and the renovation of traditional classrooms to accommodate all kinds of evidence-based pedagogies. To support this recommendation UGA has spent approximately $2.5 million to transform traditional classrooms into active learning spaces and to train faculty in incorporating active learning and other pedagogies into their classes.

UGA’s traditional degree programs, in concert with the Experiential Learning requirement, Double Dawg pathways, and other special initiatives, demonstrate that UGA—thanks to its faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends—is shaping the future of our state, nation, and world.

Momentum Year Update

Our Momentum Approach Plan (MAP) addresses each component of the USG framework:

  • USG, Deepening purposeful choices | UGA, Orientation Intake Survey
  • USG, Cultivating a productive academic mindset | UGA, Academic Coaching and UNIV courses
  • USG, Maintaining full momentum along a clear pathway | UGA, The Seven Meta-majors
  • USG, Heightening academic engagement | UGA, The Experiential Learning Requirement
  • USG, Completing critical milestones | UGA, Holistic program maps

UGA’s MAP intentionally spans the student life cycle from orientation through graduation. The broad goals informing our MAP are to help each student first declare the major that best fits their skills and aspirations as early as possible and then navigate that major successfully, optimizing their time at the university. This requires programming and tools along the way to cultivate a productive academic mindset and to heighten their academic engagement. During the course of their degree program, UGA supports students in achieving academic success while simultaneously developing and honing 21st-century competencies in communication, data literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and other skills that will enable them to tackle truly thorny issues. Our MAP will produce T-shaped graduates (also known as employable graduates) who possess both depth of learning in their field and cross-disciplinary skills and attitudes. Our MAP, although it aims to improve our four-year graduation rate, is designed primarily to ensure that our graduates are prepared for their future, have academically matured during their time at UGA, and can demonstrate that they possess the deep and sustained involvement, passion, and dedication that employers seek and that modern life requires.

Specific proposal for Deepening Purposeful Choices: The Orientation Intake Survey

To graduate in four years or less, students need to declare the major that best fits their skills and aspirations as early as possible. Data from 2015 show that approximately 60% of our students change their major at least once and that about 25% of those students change their major more than once. By helping students identify their post-UGA goals early in their academic careers, we can minimize late major changes and highlight the variety of paths available to students to fulfill those aspirations. This process starts at orientation and then makes information and resources available at critical moments as students navigate their program of study.

Two key elements of this first stage in the UGA MAP are the Orientation Intake Survey and the Exploratory Center. The online Orientation Intake Survey (piloted Summer 2019) was part of each student’s pre-orientation checklist. Approximately 80% of incoming students completed the survey which put important information in the hands of advisors before students arrived for their advising appointment during orientation. In addition to providing basic information such as AP scores, the Intake Survey includes the questions from the Holland Interest Inventory. Students receive their scores on the Inventory as soon as they hit “Submit” with cursory information on the Holland classifications: Realistic, Investigative, Social, Artistic, Enterprising, or Conventional.[12] This information is also uploaded to SAGE (our online advising tool) so each student’s advisor has that information to help guide students. The survey also asks students about their choice of major and how confident they are that it is the right major for them; approximately 22% of students matriculating in Fall 2019 were neutral, unhappy, or very unhappy with their choice. Those students’ advisors then started a conversation about majors at orientation and, if appropriate, referred them immediately to the Exploratory Center.

The Exploratory Center (EC) opened in Fall 2016. Eighteen advisors in the EC advise intended-business majors, intended-journalism majors, and exploring students—those who are undecided about a major or are considering changing their major. Given the volume of traffic in the EC in its first two years of existence, EC advisors have created an online referral system, have hosted group discussions for exploring students with Career Center counselors, and have given numerous presentations to student groups across campus to increase awareness of the center.

Specific proposal for Cultivating a Productive Academic Mindset: Academic Coaching

UGA Life Meta Major MapUGA students are very well-prepared (see above), and approximately 20% of them bring in enough credits to classify them as second-year students. Failure is inconceivable to such high-achieving students, and many of them define a B as “failure.” UGA supports those students with workshops and courses on, for example, metacognition, transformative learning strategies, active learning, and online learning to empower them to take more ownership of their education and understand the power of cultivating a productive academic mindset. Within the Division of Academic Enhancement (DAE), students also have access to Academic Coaches who provide direct, differentiated assistance for students navigating the transition to college, equipping them to identify their strengths, explore evidence-based study strategies, reflect on their own learning, and ultimately develop a growth mindset. Typically, the coach and student work together over four sessions to create a strategic learning plan. An impact report from 2018 found an average increase of 0.73 in term GPA for students who participated in Academic Coaching. As a result, the demand for Academic Coaching has far outstripped the supply. Beginning in Fall 2019, DAE’s Academic Coaches are training others; by Spring 2020, the program will be available in at least two colleges on campus. This model ensures both growth and sustainability so that every student who needs/wants coaching will be able to access it. Data is being collected every semester and will be shared in the next report.

Specific proposal for Maintaining Full Momentum along a Clear Pathway: The Seven Meta-Majors

We know that approximately 60% of UGA students change their major at least once. We also know that if that change happens after their first 60-hours, it impacts their time to graduation. To address this issue, we have established seven meta-majors that cluster our approximately 140 majors into seven groups: Creative, Leadership, Service, Life, Technology, Culture, and Nature.

These seven groups reflect very broad conceptions of our students’ post-UGA aspirations and are aligned to specific programs of study, based on overlapping core and pre-requisite courses so students may stay on track for four-year graduation if their new major falls within the same meta-major. The meta-majors also take into account the Holland Interest Inventory (which students take as part of the Intake Survey, see above); thus, they are flexible enough to respond to the maturation of students’ interests / goals / self-awareness over their four-year tenure at UGA. For example, within the Life meta-major, a student who falls into the “Social” Category (purple on the chart to the left) may find that a B.S. in Dietetics, Health Promotion or Nutritional Sciences would be a better fit than the B.S. in Biology which is an “Investigative” major (orange on the chart). By Fall 2020, we will have verified the meta-majors and will be disseminating them widely to students; we will also be working with partners across campus to incorporate the meta-majors in career fairs, student affairs events, student organizations, and orientation.

Specific proposal for Heightening Academic Engagement: Experiential Learning Requirement

To succeed, today’s students must be able to tackle real-world problems and use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve multifaceted problems that do not have simple solutions. A growing body of research demonstrates that experiential learning enhances academic engagement, student learning, success in the classroom, on-time graduation, and transition to the workforce. UGA responded to this research in Fall 2016 with the creation of the Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR) for all undergraduate students, including transfer students (see above). To meet the ELR, students must complete at least one academic course or approved non-credit activity that includes a hands-on experience, enabling students to deepen their academic engagement and extend their learning beyond the classroom. To take full advantage of the ELR, UGA is creating an official EL transcript that will document skills and competencies that a student acquires through their ELR courses and activities.

Specific proposal for Completing Critical Milestones: The Holistic Program Maps

A traditional program map already exists for every major in the UGA online bulletin. See, for example, the comprehensive listing of required and elective courses for the B.S. degree in Computer Science Engineering ( Like any program map, it shows a student how to graduate in four years; however, it does not include any critical co-curricular activities, skills, or experiential milestones that students should map out to ensure that they have a rich, engaged, and optimized undergraduate experience. In response to this need, UGA is creating holistic degree/major “maps” for all programs of study that will provide a holistic, longitudinal view of their chosen major. Each map will address attainable, appropriate action items across all aspects of the college experience: academics, experiential learning, community engagement, global competencies, wellbeing, and career preparation. Charting a course through these milestones will deepen the purposeful choice process and outline clear pathways through a major toward graduation. The maps demonstrate the interconnected nature of each of these aspects with the major and shows the value of building on each prior year’s experiences. This process will also contribute to cultivating a productive academic mindset and heightening academic engagement as students make their way through these critical milestones.

Holistic and interactive program maps for the degrees in the College of Education will be available online by Spring 2020. Other colleges will roll out their degree maps—all following the same format—throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

Other Institutional High-Impact Strategies, Activities & Outcomes

In addition to the initiatives within the Momentum Approach Plan just described, the University of Georgia has a robust student success agenda within its Complete College Georgia effort. Of the five strategies that UGA has been pursuing, here we report on two of them.

  • Provide proactive, cohort-based academic support programs for underserved students to promote academic success and completion in four years
  • Continue efforts to improve general education, update pedagogy, and support faculty efforts to improve instruction to enhance student learning and progression

Strategy 1: Provide proactive, cohort-based academic support programs for underserved students to promote academic success and completion in four years

The UGA student body reflects a diverse group of individuals in terms of their domicile (rural, suburban, or urban), exposure, and familiarity with college (first generation college students), and economic status. Approximately 12% of the Fall 2018 FTFT cohort came from rural parts of the state; approximately 3% were the first in their families to go to college; and approximately 21% received Federal Pell Grants. Many students belonged to all three groups. A 2017 report from the Office of Institutional Research showed that students from rural areas of Georgia had approximately 10% lower four-year graduation rates and higher one- and two-year withdrawal rates than their urban/suburban peers.[13] In light of these factors, UGA launched the ALL Georgia program in Fall 2018, a cohort model (like the Coca Cola First Generation Scholarship Program) to serve rural students. The ALL Georgia Program offers rural students two pathways to academic success at UGA: 1) an intentional network of support and resources available to all rural students through the DAE and 2) a comprehensive, four-year scholarship program for a cohort of high-achieving and high-need ALL Georgia Scholars. We are tracking these students to measure and assess the impact of the program and will have results for next year’s report.

The ALL Georgia program shares many characteristics with the Coca Cola First Generation (CCFG) Scholarship Program which has a long record of success. The 165 students who received CCFG scholarships have flourished as a result of the financial, academic, and moral support that the program provides and have been the beneficiaries of hundreds of unique opportunities through academic and co-curricular programming, special events, Scholar seminars, and both Peer and Faculty/Staff Mentor interactions, all of which have contributed to their success at UGA and beyond the Arch. Current CCFG Scholars have an impressive average GPA of 3.5+ and four-year graduation rates that are on par with the overall UGA student body. We expect the ALL Georgia scholars to post similar results.

Strategy 2: Continue efforts to improve general education, update pedagogy, and support faculty efforts to improve instruction to enhance student learning and progression

We continue several efforts to update pedagogy and support faculty efforts to improve instruction, much of which is designed to ensure deeper learning. We are also continually working to improve our general education. Key programs that are mostly closely tied to our MAP include the following:

  • Re-design of BIOL 1107 and 1108 and their requirements, including removing CHEM 1211 as a pre-requisite for BIOL 1107. Anticipated full implementation: Fall 2020.
  • Re-design of general CHEM 1211 and 1212 to include active learning and a free OER in place of a costly textbook. Anticipated full implementation: Fall 2020
  • Increasing use of open educational resources (OERs) across the curriculum; since Fall 2013, OERs have saved more than 58,000 UGA students approximately $5.6 million in textbook costs.[14]
  • Expanding roster of online courses to help keep students on track for graduation.[15]
  • Peer Learning Assistant (PLA) program (more details below)
  • Campus-wide efforts to increase adoption of “active” pedagogy in classes (more details below).

For three years, UGA had a pilot Peer Learning Assistant (PLA) program.[16] PLAs were placed in several different STEM courses and were used in a variety of ways. In the pilot, we saw gains in the courses supported by PLAs. For example, in some courses, in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, we saw statistically significant equity gaps in GPA and DF & W rates with regards to gender in several courses without PLAs; these equity gaps were not detectable in sections with PLAs.[17] In addition to the results concerning equity gaps, we also saw that in BIOL 1107, students in a section with PLAs outperformed students without PLA support on multi-stepped, open-ended questions, and in CHEM 1211, PLA-supported classes saw improvement in the middle grade range from Cs to Bs.

As a result of this pilot, we have revised, improved, and harmonized the pilot into the “PLAdawgs Program” which includes robust assessment of the impact on the students in classes supported by PLAdawgs, the students who are employed as PLAdawgs, and the faculty who teach classes supported by PLAdawgs. The primary goals of the PLAdawgs program are many: to improve student learning and content understanding in high demand gateway courses, to deepen the PLAdawgs’ expertise through experiential learning, to help promote an active learning style of teaching into our campus culture, and to give students the opportunity to teach their peers and explore teaching as a career choice. The first comprehensive impact study will be completed in time for next year’s report.

UGA has also invested in creating active learning environments by training faculty and retrofitting older classrooms for active learning with new kinds of spaces and interactive technology. Furthermore, to date, more than 50 faculty members have been trained by UGA’s Active Learning Summer Institute, and more than 8,500 students have benefited from these course redesigns. We are tracking the students enrolled in these redesigned classes and will have data for next year’s report.  In addition, DAE is offering a course for students on how to learn in an active learning environment. In other words, we are addressing the issue from both sides of the classroom. See Appendix C for a complete list of courses that have been redesigned for active learning.

Observations and Next Steps

The University of Georgia’s retention and completion plan is focused both on having an engaging and supportive environment designed to support all students and on providing specific programs for certain cohorts of students. At UGA, students are being retained and are completing bachelor’s degrees at exceptional rates. The first-year retention rate for all students is 96% and the four-year graduation rate is 69%. The first-year retention and six-year completion rates for certain underrepresented populations at UGA are also increasing (see Table 2). Our goal is to boost our four-year completion rate to 70% by 2020.

UGA graduates are recruited by major corporations, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and government. Within six months of graduation, 96% of graduates who either seek employment or admission to post-baccalaureate degree programs are employed or enrolled in graduate or professional school.

Programs that have shown good results will continue and be strengthened. These include all of our efforts around intentional choice such as the Orientation Intake Survey, proactive advising within the Exploratory Center, and promulgating the meta-majors for students who are contemplating changing their major. To improve student success in gateway courses, we will continue the small class initiative, PLA support, focused tutoring and workshops, and wider adoption of OERs. To improve student success in bottleneck courses, we will continue to offer online options, especially in the summer.

The University of Georgia’s completion strategy combines programs targeted to specific populations as well as those that impact the entire undergraduate population. They were designed with our high performing, academically strong student body in mind—to challenge, engage, and support students on their way to timely completion. Our retention and graduation rates, positive enrollment trends, number of degrees conferred, and job offer rates underscore UGA’s ability to help address the workforce needs of the future.

Student Success and Completion Team

Rahul Shrivastav, Vice President for Instruction
Julia Butler-Mayes, Director of University Advising Services
T. Chase Hagood, Director of the Division of Academic Enhancement
Paul Klute, Director of the Office of Institutional Research
Naomi J. Norman, Associate Vice President for Instruction
Patrick Winter, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions and Enrollment Management



[1] Only 2.85% of all undergraduate students were 25 and older.

[2] Most sections of MATH 113 in Spring 2019 used a “flipped classroom” model.

[3] According to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

[4] Because the gains for transfer students have been more modest, UGA is implementing strategies recommended by the President’s Task Force on Student Learning and Success to ease their transition to UGA and improve their completion rates; one important new resource is the online transfer handbook that students and their advisors can consult as they prepare to transfer to UGA. In addition, the University now has a Coordinator of University Transfer Services within the Office of Instruction whose mandate is to enrich the experience of our transfer students.

[5] UGA has over 250 study abroad, exchange programs, and field school opportunities available to students; in 2018-2019, 2,780 (2,542 undergraduate and 238 graduate)  students (% of the undergraduate population) participated in study abroad programs (34.5% of graduated undergraduates studied abroad; 38% of graduated undergraduates took part in domestic and international study away experiences). The university currently ranks #13 in the nation for overall student participation in education abroad, and #10 in short-term participation, according to Open Doors.

[6]In 2018-19 6,038 unique undergraduate students enrolled in a course with a service learning component, and 1,435 took more than one service learning course during the year; 71.7% of the students who responded to a survey reported that the service-learning component of the course positively influenced their intention to complete their degree. Enrollment in service-learning courses continues to increase at UGA.

[7] UGA has about 120 unique internship opportunities that students may use to fulfill the Experiential Learning Requirement.

[8] Through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO), all UGA undergraduates, beginning in their first year, may engage in faculty-mentored research, regardless of discipline, major, or GPA. At the spring 2019 CURO Symposium, a record number of 650 undergraduate student researchers from across campus showcased their research and accomplishments with the University and local community. These 650 students, representing 96 different majors from 13 different schools and colleges, conducted research alongside 361 faculty members from 80 departments.

[9] At present, students may choose from 1,541 courses and 211 non-credit activities to satisfy this requirement.

[11] The pathways are either within a single department and discipline or across departments, schools, or colleges.

[12] These classifications are reflected in our meta-majors (see below).

[13] “Rural,” for this report, encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within a Census defined urban area, 2010 boundaries.

[14] UGA is actively promoting the adoption of OERs by providing faculty members, especially those who teach large enrollment courses with resources and assistance from the Center for Teaching and Learning to transition away from expensive textbooks to open education resources. A full list of courses that have adopted OERs and cost savings to students can be found here.

[15] In 2013, the Office of Online Learning (OOL) launched a Fellows program to recruit and train faculty to design, develop and teach high-quality online courses. Through this initiative UGA has developed 74 (up from 68 last year) online core undergraduate courses that satisfy at least one area in the core among 191 undergraduate courses. Many of these are online versions of required, high-demand, and/or bottleneck courses. UGA also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Special Education (BSEd), along with 12 online graduate certificates and 18 graduate degrees.

[16] A peer learning assistant is an undergraduate student who has successfully completed a gateway course and then returns to facilitate learning by guiding student groups and providing supplementary support to their peers inside the classroom. They take a pedagogy course learn about methods for effective teaching and to reflect on their own learning.

[17] The GPA gap was closed in CSCI 1301, MATH 2250, and MCHE 2990; and the DFW gap was closed in CSCI 1301 and MATH 2250.