ATLANTA – Governor Brian P. Kemp announced Thursday the University System of Georgia (USG) was recognized nationally as the 2019-2020 Exceptional Agency by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). This Award of Excellence recognizes leadership, dedication, and innovation in state higher education policy and administration.

“The University System of Georgia has equipped its graduates with a strong foundation and the necessary skills to compete in the workforce for generations,” said Kemp. “The First Lady and I know this firsthand, not only as graduates of a USG institution ourselves, but as the proud parents of two current USG students. Across our state and around the globe, countless families like my own have benefited from the opportunities our 26 institutions provide. This national recognition is well-deserved, and it continues to solidify Georgia’s reputation as the top place for students to learn, job creators to invest, and families to grow.”

The Exceptional Agency Award is presented to a SHEEO member agency whose innovative actions, policies, or practices advanced student success in their state and which displayed exceptional governance practices.

“For many years, I’ve worked closely with the University System of Georgia and its institutions to help improve access to quality education for all Georgians,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, a member of the Senate committee that oversees education and the former chairman of the Georgia Board of Education. “By opening doors to students earning a college degree, we can change the entire trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families. USG is a national leader in delivering on the dream of an affordable college education. I’m so proud of the work our university system has done on behalf of our students and congratulate USG on this distinction.”

“Georgia’s education system is one of our state’s greatest assets,” said Sen. David Perdue. “Our universities attract top talent from around the world and encourage high-performing Georgia students to stay in state. The University System of Georgia has spearheaded efforts to bring down tuition costs, increase accessibility, and build partnerships between the business community and educational institutions. These innovative practices will help us continue to build a qualified workforce that’s prepared to meet the needs of our growing economy.”

“We are honored to be this year’s recipient and look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of Georgia’s current and future students,” said USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “This award is a recognition of the work the Board of Regents and our entire team is doing to advance the University System of Georgia’s three priorities — ensuring more Georgians enter the workforce with a college credential, making college more affordable, and finding opportunities to be more efficient and make college more accessible.”

USG was recognized for its work in:

• Adopting Momentum Year, an all-in student success plank that aims to have all freshmen start college by making a purposeful choice in an academic focus area, having a productive academic mind-set, and following clearly sequenced program maps.

• Working diligently to bring down student costs. Over the past five years, USG has collaborated with state leaders and institutions to hold undergraduate in-state tuition increases to an average of 1.7 percent with two years of no increase at all. This is the third lowest average annual increase in tuition and required fees in the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states. Georgia has dropped to fourth lowest median undergraduate tuition and required fees among SREB four-year institutions. The 2.5 percent increase for the 2019-2020 academic year is targeted on investments that improve student outcomes and address general cost increases.

• Collaborating with industry and economic development entities to increase access to academic programs leading to high-demand careers in the state. Expanding affordable programs in high-demand areas through USG’s online eMajor initiative. eMajor is part of eCampus, a system collaborative that leverages centralized administration, technology, and student support along with institutional curricular offerings to select majors and the entire general education curriculum (eCore) in a high quality, low-cost online format to all USG students.

• Conducting extensive analysis to build the case for the work; partnering with several external organizations; and convened institutional teams multiple times to learn from experts, share with one another, and develop implementation plans.

Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.

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