The governor’s newest education initiative — known as “Go Back. Move Ahead.” — will feature a media blitz across billboards, radio, print and video encouraging those who have attended some college to return to finish their degrees.
Deal, who is running for re-election against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, said his initiative also issues a “challenge” to the state’s university system to “make it easier for those Georgians to go back” through methods such as simplifying the enrollment process and adding more flexible ways to transfer earned college credits.
“In order for Georgia to remain economically competitive, we must have an educated work force, and focusing on college completion is one way we intend to do that,” Deal said. “‘Go Back. Move Ahead.’ provides resources for prospective students and makes it easy for any Georgian who has started college to go back to school and earn a degree or certificate.”
The University System of Georgia estimates 22 percent of the state’s population falls into the group Deal hopes to motivate.
It also said more than 60 percent of Georgia jobs will require some type of education beyond high school by 2020 — and less than half of the state’s young population is ready to fill those positions.
Dr. Ken Harmon, provost at Kennesaw State University, said his school was already in the process of implementing changes that encourage degree completion before Deal unveiled his new college campaign.
“I think this initiative is causing us perhaps to just put some more focus or speed up those types of programs,” Harmon said. “A big part of what we’re doing is trying to initiate even more online programs and courses because what we’re finding is, oftentimes, (to) these students, the idea of commuting back and forth to campus or something like that is just not convenient, and so oftentimes we find that they’re looking for an online alternative.”
Harmon said the university is working on an expansion of the number of online courses it offers.
“I think a big part of the initiative as well is trying to get an inventory of what all the different colleges across the state have and then providing … a fairly seamless approach to try to educate those people with some college credits to get back into the programs.”
The university will ramp up its advising services so adults looking to finish school will have more access, Harmon said, as well as bring in “extra software utilities” in order to help the university identify students who run the risk of not completing their degrees.
“All of these efforts have been a really high focus in Georgia for at least two years now, and so I see this whole initiative now as just an extension of that,” Harmon said.
Trina Boteler, executive vice president at Chattahoochee Technical College, said the state’s technical college system has “already anticipated” the need to make changes that attract working adults to enroll.
“Some of our programs you can take totally online, like management, marketing and accounting,” Boteler said.
She said the largest of Chattahoochee Tech’s eight physical campuses — the Marietta facility off South Cobb Drive — is still smaller than its online campus.
Boteler noted the school already educates a large number of “adult learners,” citing the average student age of 27.
“I hope that just putting a name to the fact that we’re here to support these students will push more students to come back,” she said of “Go Back. Move Ahead.”
Deal’s initiative inspired Boteler’s son-in-law, John Adams, to consider heading back to class.
“You hear the governor talking about it and you think, ‘Hey, I’m not the only person in this situation,’” Adams said.
Adams said he graduated from high school in 1996 and earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Young Harris College, which was then a two-year school.
“I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” he said.
After some time at Athens Technical College and two separate stints at Georgia College and State University, Adams said he finally dropped out of school for good because he “had bills to pay.”
“I was working 40 hours a week,” he recalled. “I’ve always worked 40 hours a week while I’ve been in school, that’s just how I was raised.”
Adams said he has been married for eight years and has a set of 10-month-old twins and a three-year-old son.
But Adams said he feels “encouraged” knowing “there are other people in my shoes who feel the same way,” though he does not yet know where he will study or what exactly he wants to do with a degree.
“I’m trying to always better myself. But it takes time, you’ve got to start at the right spot no matter what you do, or you’re in line behind other people,” he said. “There are times when you feel like you’re in the same spot for so long.”