Wrigley, a chief of staff to former Gov. Zell Miller, has worked in public service for 36 years. Wrigley, who received his doctoral degree in history, is known for being detailed and his hearty laugh. Kemp described Wrigley in a statement as “a tireless advocate for our students and faculty.” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, offered congratulatory remarks toward Wrigley in a statement.
While many states have seen fewer students in their public colleges and universities in recent years, Georgia’s system has seen enrollment increase by more than 15,000 students since 2017. Wrigley has heralded efforts to lower costs in areas such as student textbooks.
As the Georgia system’s enrollment has grown, so, too, have the number of students in need of more financial help to pay for tuition and other fees. Students, on average, are borrowing more than $6,000 a year to attend the system’s larger schools. Higher education experts have said Georgia’s system must offer more needs-based aid for students.
Meanwhile, many of the system’s smaller schools had enrollment declines during the fall semester.
“One of the biggest challenges for a future chancellor is figuring out how to manage a very diverse university system that includes big, growing urban institutions and smaller, rural schools,” said Jennifer Lee, senior higher education policy analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, an Atlanta-based nonprofit.
Additionally, the system has become more racially diverse. About 53% of its students are non-white.
University of North Georgia professor Matt Boedy, conference president of the Georgia chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Wrigley has fought for students and faculty during his career. However, Boedy was critical of his management of the pandemic, saying Wrigley hasn’t adequately listened to the suggestions of faculty to limit the spread of COVID-19 on its campuses.
“I hope the Board of Regents keeps in mind the changes afoot in Georgia as it searches for a new chancellor,” Boedy said.