U.S. education secretary talks college completion at Georgia State

Newly confirmed U.S. education secretary John King visited Georgia State University on Wednesday to get a firsthand look at the the school’s methods for getting students graduated.

The Georgia State visit was the first stop on the federal education department’s “College Opportunity Across America” tour. King, who was confirmed for the position this week, was joined by education department undersecretary Ted Mitchell.

They heard from Georgia State students and advisers about the intensive advising, student monitoring and data-tracking system that has helped keep students on track and become a national and statewide model.

Georgia State has been lauded nationally for its workto improve retention and graduation rates, prevent students from taking unnecessary classes, and ultimately lower college costs and student-loan debt. The school tracks each of its 24,000 or so undergraduates daily, and has boosted its academic adviser core to help them. The school’s advising team completed about 45,000 advisement appointments with students last year.

“I’m thankful my adviser always had an open space in her calendar,” said Kaila Yancey, 22, a graduating senior with three job offers two months before graduation.

Last year, the university received an almost $9 million “First in the World” federal education innovation grant to further that work and share its system with other schools.

King’s visit comes the same week Congress confirmed him for the top education position. He replaces former education secretary Arne Duncan, who stepped down in December after seven years. Some lawmakers had opposed King for his support of Common Core standards while he led New York’s education department.

Senator Johnny Isakson voted against King’s confirmation, and tweeted Monday, “I cannot support John King’s nomination because of our fundamental difference of opinion on the importance of state & local control of education.”

With the newly passed federal education law giving more state and local districtscontrol of education, King pledged to uphold the shift, while also ensuring that all students receive a quality education.

King and Mitchell are visiting with students and college leaders in Huntsville, Ala., San Francisco and Washington, D.C., over the next two weeks to hear about ways schools are increasing access, affordability and positive outcomes for students.

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