Student management

Augusta University Focuses on Increasing Enrollment and Student Retention – Jagwire

During the state of the university address this week, Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, said the key to a successful future is not just to increase the number of student enrolments, but also to retain these students for at least four years to ensure that they graduate. .

“We compete with 25 other universities in the state of Georgia alone,” Keel said during his May 31 state of the university address. “Our future depends on our ability to continue to see an increase in enrollment each year. I can’t tell you enough how important that is. However, it’s not just about getting students in the door, which is important, but it’s about keeping them here and getting them out with a degree.

Despite concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few years, Augusta University enrollment has grown more than 15% since fall 2015 and is recording an average annual increase of 2. 4%, Keel said.

“Augusta University was one of only five universities in the Georgia University System to experience enrollment growth in 2021,” Keel said, adding that growth at Augusta University was primarily in enrollment. of graduate and professional students. “Let that sink in for a minute. Only five institutions saw an increase in enrollment at all 26 campuses statewide, and Augusta University was one of them.

Total enrollment at Augusta University in fall 2021 was over 9,600, an increase of 0.4% from fall 2020. Within USG, institutions with enrollment growth included Augusta University at 0.4%, Georgia Institute of Technology at 10.3%, Kennesaw State. University at 4.4%, University of Georgia at 2.5% and Georgia Southern University at 0.5%.

“But our undergraduate growth actually went down 3.2%,” Keel said. “Typically we lose about 800 students a year, but last year we lost about 1,000.”

The university’s current retention rate is about 70%, with a goal to increase the rate to 80% or more in five years, Keel said.

While some students can transfer to other universities, Keel said many of these students simply leave after their freshman year. In order to retain more students, Keel said Augusta University focuses on the needs of undergraduate students.

“Once we kick them out, how do we keep them engaged? How can we get them to pass so they can graduate on the other end? Keel said. “We’re focused on getting lots of new freshmen here, but we’re also working to ensure that these new freshmen, when they come here, succeed and become graduating seniors.”

For the past few years, Augusta University has been working toward the goal of having 16,000 students by 2030, otherwise known as the 16×30 plan, Keel said.

“I actually mentioned this probably five years ago at a town hall meeting,” Keel said with a laugh. “I said, ‘You know, we have enough capacity here to take about 16,000 students. It’s about our sweet spot. And I think we can do that by 2030.’ And no sooner had I said that than the word started to spread. And I’m so impressed with how that’s been a rallying call for the whole university.

But to achieve that 16×30 goal, Augusta University must be prepared to meet the needs of current and future students, Keel said.

“We have to start planning now,” Keel said. “We have to have the ability to teach all those 16,000 students. We must have new dormitories and new dining halls and we must increase our means of transport. And, at some point, we will need more space in the classrooms. These are all good problems to have.

The new $70 million science and math building on the health sciences campus

Last year, Augusta University opened the new $70 million science and math building on the health sciences campus. But the university is planning additional projects such as the construction of a 1,350-space parking lot in the southwest corner of the health sciences campus, a new student welcome center and the development of a third building. at the Georgia Cyber ​​Center in downtown Augusta, Keel said.

Additionally, Augusta University recently welcomed Dr. Marc Austin as Associate Provost and inaugural Dean of Augusta University Online. Austin will guide the evolution of Augusta University’s online education and learning strategy, leveraging existing institutional strengths and identifying new opportunities to position Augusta University online for a long-term success, Keel said.

Additionally, for the first time in university history, Augusta University has created a strategic enrollment management plan led by Dr. Susan Davies, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs.

“We’ve mapped out exactly how we can grow the number of students in all of the different categories,” Keel said. “The 16×30 is not just a mileage benchmark to reach. We now have an elaborate plan that will get us there.

Additionally, beginning in the fall of 2022, the Board of Regents approved the elimination of special institutional fees, leaving tuition fees unchanged for the 2022-23 academic year, marking the third consecutive year with no tuition fee increases. schooling, Keel said.

Tuition and fees for two semesters (fall and spring) for four-year degrees at Augusta University will total $8,122, down 8% from last year.

“This is a huge boon to our students and all students across the state of Georgia,” Keel said, adding that the elimination of fees is due to the Georgia state legislature’s approval of $230 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget in the last legislative session.

General state funds will replace SIF for colleges and universities this year.

“This is probably the most exciting and impactful budget the General Assembly has passed in terms of higher education in recent memory,” Keel said.

In fact, the Georgia Legislature has dedicated more than $8.7 million in matching funds to expand the Medical College of Georgia’s 3+ primary care pathway, Keel said.

Man standing on stage
Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, speaks during the Augusta University Annual Address at the Augusta University Health Sciences Campus. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

The MCG 3+ program is an accelerated medical school program that was developed to recruit, train, and place more primary care physicians in underserved communities in Georgia. It’s also a solution to address growing concerns about doctor shortages, the student debt crisis and health care disparities, Keel said.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the MCG 3+ program would receive $2.1 million in federal funding through this year’s FY22 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

“This program aims to eliminate medical school tuition debt, reduce disparities by increasing access to care in rural and underserved areas of Georgia, and begin to address extreme shortage of doctors that we are experiencing in one of the 10 most populous states in the country,” Keel said.

According to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, 60 of the state’s 159 counties don’t have a pediatrician, 76 don’t have an obstetrician or gynecologist, 18 don’t have a family doctor, 32 don’t have a no internist and 74 have no general surgeon.

The MCG 3+ program will significantly reduce the cost of medical school, shorten the time it takes to train doctors, and inspire doctors to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas of Georgia by providing the opportunity to eliminate medical school tuition.

This program was implemented in the fall of 2021, and MCG already has eight medical students in the 3+ primary care pathway, Keel said.

“We are in the process of starting the next cohort,” Keel said. “Our goal is to grow from eight students in a class to 50. We would like to have enough resources for 50 medical students to agree to join this program and cover their tuition to go to medical school for free. And then we’re finally going to address the doctor shortage in this state.

The future is “extremely bright” at the University of Augusta, Keel said, adding that he looks forward to seeing what lies ahead for the next decade.

“We need to make Augusta University a destination campus. It has to be a place where people want to come to study,” he said. “We already get over 50% of our freshman class from outside the region.

“But word is spreading that if you want to get an education – especially if you want to be in some of the fields that are unique to us, like cybersecurity, medicine, dentistry, allied health and nursing – it’s where you come to get your undergraduate degree in order to succeed in these graduate and professional programs. You come here to Augusta University.

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