Students wait for buses at the Tate Student Center bus stop on the University of Georgia campus in Athens in this AJC file photo. This year, UGA produced a handbook for freshmen who were the first in their families to go to college, using simple and clear English. REANN HUBER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

AJC On Campus: State reports increase in degrees, Morehouse tackles student debt

A few Atlanta area colleges and universities began classes last week. More students return next week.

Here’s a rundown of some issues that made news last week in this edition of AJC On Campus.

Keep choppin’

Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted that phrase Wednesday in praise of the University System of Georgia after officials released data showing 67,854 degrees were awarded to students in fiscal year 2019. That’s a 24% increase since 2011, the system reported. By contrast, enrollment increased by only 3% during that time span. The system has implemented several programs in recent years to increase graduation rates and exploring more ideas. 

Morehouse creates program to help students grappling with loan debt

Graduates react after hearing billionaire, Robert F. Smith is paying all student debt for the class of 2019 during the Morehouse College graduation ceremony in Atlanta on Sunday, May 19, 2019. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Philanthropist Robert F. Smith surprised Morehouse College at its May commencement when he announced his plan to pay the student debt of each graduating student. The college announced last week its embarking on a fundraising and research initiative to reduce the student loan debt of more of its students. The college’s Student Success Program will solicit and accept donations made specifically to reduce or eliminate the student loan debt of its students. Morehouse said in a news release it will study the impact of the cost of higher education on its students. Morehouse officials said the student loan debt of its graduates at commencement is typically between $35,000 to $40,000. 

New medical schools in South Georgia

There have been several news accounts and reports in the last year about the lack of medical resources in South Georgia. Some counties have no doctors. State leaders hope that may soon change, in part, because of two Georgia schools. The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine last week opened a campus in Moultrie. Gov. Kemp, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott and other elected officials made the trip there to celebrate. The four-year school, which started classes Aug. 12, will train professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Additionally, Morehouse School of Medicine next week is scheduled to announce plans to open a campus in Columbus.

UGA’s bright first-year class

The University of Georgia, the state’s flagship school, released some numbers this week about its crop of first-year students. One statistic stood out. The average weighted grade-point average was a 4.0, basically a straight A student. UGA’s admissions rate last year was 49%, down five percentage points since 2013. Applications to UGA have increased by 40% in the last five years, officials say. Such lofty academic data explains, in part, why it’s become more difficult to enroll in UGA. 

Report: Georgia showing strong financial support for its colleges

Moody’s released a report this week on state support for higher education that found Georgia is providing “a relatively robust funding boost” for its colleges and universities in the new fiscal year. “Georgia is providing a relatively robust funding boost of more than 6% to cover enrollment growth and staffing costs, increasing its funding on a per-student basis, although it remains below pre-recession levels,” Moody’s wrote in its summary. Georgia and six other states provide for over 50% of state appropriations to public higher education nationally. Moody’s found “steady to positive” state support nationwide for colleges, but warned it may change as many demographers project a decline in student enrollment in the coming years.

Find Your Wings

05/09/2019 -- Kennesaw, Georgia -- Kennesaw State University president Pamela S. Whitten speaks during the 223rd Kennesaw State University commencement ceremony at the convocation center on the university's main campus in Kennesaw, Thursday, May 9, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

That’s the name of Kennesaw State University’s brand campaign. The school will hold celebrations Monday, the first day of the fall semester, on both campuses to launch the campaign. University officials said “Find Your Wings” is the result of a yearlong effort to better define KSU’s purpose and identify what it means to be an owl, the school’s mascot. The university interviewed about 7,000 students, faculty, staff and community leaders to come up with the theme for the campaign.

Stone Cold Sober Schools 

The AJC reported last week that the University of Georgia, once at or near the top of The Princeton Review’s annual list of top party schools, was nowhere to be found on this year’s list. We found it interesting that two Georgia colleges made another Princeton Review list, the “Stone-Cold Sober School” rankings. Decatur-based Agnes Scott College ranked 14th on the list while Berry College, located in North Georgia, ranked 17th. The list is based on surveys of student interest, or lack thereof, in Greek organizations, the use of drugs and alcohol on campus and the average number of study hours outside the classroom.

Education Notebook

The fall semester is typically the time colleges and universities try new courses to attract students. One course of study that has grown in popularity in recent years has been forensic science. We recently took a look at Savannah State University’s program. To read more, click here.

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