"The Gatekey Scholarship program started five years ago, as far as putting together all of the cornerstones of the program," Superintendent Howard Hinesley said. "We've actually been awarding scholarships for four years and this year we had our first graduates, and the graduating classes of Gatekey scholars are going to grow over the next several years."
Georgia is one of 10 states to be awarded $1 million by Complete College America to fuel policy innovations and reforms aimed at significantly increasing college completion.
In conjunction with this grant, Deal also introduced his Complete College Georgia Initiative.
"By 2018, more than 60 percent of job openings in Georgia will require some form of postsecondary education. To meet this demand, we must increase the number of students with access to higher education and ensure that these students graduate with postsecondary degrees in a timely manner," Deal said in a press release. "My Complete College Georgia Initiative provides concrete steps to address both access and completion. We know this problem is significant: Less than a quarter of full-time students at two-year colleges ever graduate and only 44 percent at four-year colleges get their degree within six years. We also know the problem is fixable."
Hinesley originally developed the program model while serving as superintendent of the Pinellas County School System in Florida, and the program later became a state scholarship. He said he was contacted by Gov. Deal's Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Erin Hames who expressed interest in the program model.
"After it became obvious that [Deal] needed to, due to a shortfall in money, make an adjustment to the HOPE Scholarship program and we realized that some of the students that probably not be able to get the [HOPE Scholarship] in the future, would be some that have the most need," Hinesley said. "So we made a presentation to the governor's staff and told them we felt [the Gatekey model] would be an opportunity to advance the HOPE program if they agreed with us that it needed to be."
The GateKey scholarship program, which began in 2007 through the Cartersville Schools Foundation, awards college scholarships for eligible students beginning as early as the fourth grade while holding students accountable for their grades and behavior throughout their academic career.
The scholarships are two-year scholarships awarded for Chattahoochee Technical College or Georgia Highlands College. However, foundation president Lisa Bell said recipients can petition the foundation to use scholarship funds toward other colleges.
She explained the GateKey program takes students who are considered to be college-bound, but may lack the finances or other support systems to make it to college once they graduate.
The governor's plan prescribes the following strategies:
Development of comprehensive system-wide and campus-level completion plans
* By Jan. 1, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia must submit comprehensive system-wide completion plans to the governor.
* By July 1, each USG and TCSG institution must submit comprehensive campus-level completion plans to the governor.
* Restructuring of select TCSG programs
* By fall 2012, at least five TCSG programs must be restructured to better support students who work while attending college.
Seamless Education System
* Work with Chancellor Hank Huckaby, Commissioner Ron Jackson, the Board of Regents and the board of the Technical College System of Georgia to ensure that the higher education system in Georgia is a seamless system that allows students to transfer with ease in order to complete their postsecondary educations.
Improvement in remediation as a part of the $1 million Complete College America grant
* Two USG institutions, College of Coastal Georgia and Georgia Gwinnett College, and two TCSG institutions, Athens Technical College and DeKalb Technical College, will pilot innovative remediation programs.
* It will implement technology-based diagnostic assessments to determine level of remediation required for each student, modularize remediation coursework to allow students to work at an individualized pace, allow students to simultaneously enroll in college-level courses and diagnostic-based learning support, and increase opportunities for student success and skill supports.
* Successful aspects of these pilot programs will then be scaled to USG and TCSG institutions across the state.
Creation of a needs-based scholarship program
* This program will identify low-income middle school students with college potential and provide them with support through high school. Students who complete the program will receive a tuition scholarship.
* The governor's staff will look at successful programs, including Cartersville's GateKey Scholarship Program, as models for this needs-based scholarship.
* Deal is aggressively pursuing private partners to assist with seed funding.
Formation of the Higher Education Finance Commission
* In the coming week, Deal will issue an executive order creating a commission that will focus on higher education funding, particularly examining ways to change the funding formula to incentivize completion.
Thirty-three states applied for the 18-month implementation grants for innovative, high-impact college completion initiatives designed to enhance student success and close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. Georgia's application focused on restructuring remediation programs. Complete College America received funding support for the grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Gov. Deal gets it -- doing more of the same will not boost student success or get Georgia the additional college graduates it must have to be competitive," Complete College America President Stan Jones said in the press release. "Georgia's innovative pilot program promises to significantly increase college completion, saving students precious time and money, and giving taxpayers more of what they expect from their hard-earned investments in higher education -- college graduates."
The Complete College Georgia Initiative is part of Deal's broader Georgia Competitiveness Initiative.