CSU: New Million Dollar Bachelor’s Degree –

The University System of Georgia (USG) is the recent recipient of a $1 million grant to improve college completion rates in the State of Georgia.

Columbus State University (CSU), a school in the USG, will develop a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a Civic Leadership focus to target groups who may be underserved in higher education—young adult military population and low-income students.

“We want to make sure we are serving the population and we can provide better access for military learners, adult learners, and the fast-growing Latino population here in Georgia,” said Art Seavey, director of policy and partnership development for the USG. “We want programs that will get them in the door and once they’re in the door, we want to do the right things to ensure they progress and earn their degree.”

Seavey said Columbus State University has been a leader in online education, so the school was approached to create the degree program.

“These are new models and we have to be very sure that we’re certain of the quality and have a way of measuring and comparing them with other programs,” Seavey said. “Next Generation Learning Challenges has been very keen from the onset and will have an external evaluator—and we will have one as well—to look at what’s a Quality Management Framework and we can monitor that over the next few years so that we know what it is working. The models in the program will be looked at rigorously through evidence-based findings.”

Seavey said retention rates—how many college students return after the first year—will be one indicator of whether or not the new program is working.

“Everything we’re doing falls under the big umbrella of Complete College Georgia,” Seavey said. “The governor set the goal that 60% of young adults in Georgia should have a one-year certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree by Year 2020.”

The new accelerated degree program, which consists of eight-week courses, is entirely online and will allow students to receive credit for experience and skills they have already attained. Students are awarded a certificate credential within the first year, an associate degree before the end of the second year, and a bachelor’s degree upon completion.

“The program explores concepts and applications designed for students seeking careers in organizational communication, training and development, editing, teaching, and politics,” said Tom Hackett, provost and vice president for academic affairs at CSU. “The communication program has a strong tradition of community outreach and leadership, and training its graduates to work with nonprofit organizations in developing strong plans to obtain resources that meet their missions.”

Dual enrollment with high school programs will also be a feature of the new degree program, Hackett added.

Hackett said at a recent state-level meeting, information presented related to nonprofit organizations seeking funding cited a figure of 1.6 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. He said that shows an obvious need for graduates who can work on those organizations.

“The civic leadership component will involve work in a student’s home community and will involve projects that enhance work at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other community partners,” he said.

Hackett said it’s clear CSU must have resources allocated to monitoring progress, supporting students with various needs, and developing completion points along the way.

“Support services in admissions, enrollment, financial aid, and advising will be available, and there will be ample opportunity to receive credit for military training experiences, prior learning assessments, and other prior learning experiences,” Hackett said. “Incidentally, we already provide these opportunities, but under this new program, these opportunities will be part of initial assessment for students during the admission process.”

CSU has offered online degree programs—undergraduate and graduate—since 2008. The new bachelor’s degree will begin fall 2013 with an expected first year enrollment of 500. The school is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJonesCMN