Vice President of Students Todd Jones introduced nontraditional students Rick Waterson, Tatiana Smithson and Amelia Bagwell. All three students, who also occupied various positions with the college, spoke of the advantages GHC had given them and the growth they personally experienced while attending the college.
“This is what I’d like to point out about Georgia Highlands: yes, we provide opportunities for the nontraditional. We also provide opportunities to the traditional,” Bagwell said. “We are an open access institution and what that means for your community is for people like me, for people like my daughter, for people like Tatiana, for people like Rick, the doors are open, but that does not mean our academic integrity is by any means lessened.”
Jones later described the challenge of increasing graduation rates in all student categories.
“The Complete College goal in Georgia is to significantly increase the number of adults with degrees in Georgia in order to meet the demands of the new economy. Our challenge is despite 40 years of research by numerous scholars and [agencies], graduation rates have remained relatively unchanged,” he said. “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the six-year completion rate for a first-time college student earning a bachelor’s degree has remained around 52 to 55 percent for the last 20 years.
“... Unfortunately in Georgia the numbers are even less and have remained just below 50 percent graduate rates. If you were to take 100 students from 2002 and enroll them in public college or university in Georgia, 54 would have started in a two-year college, 46 would have started at a four-year institute. Of those 100 students, only 11 would have graduated in four years from a two-year institution and only 28 from a four-year institution within eight years.”
Jones added, however, that the statistics focused on first-time freshmen enrolling right out of high school and most research focused on the traditional student enrolling predominately at four-year systems.
Traditional students, Jones explained, are those who enroll full-time in college immediately after high school, do not work and receives financial support from their parents. Those students form 27 percent of the nationwide college student body, while nontraditional students — those who are 25 years old or older — form 39 percent of the enrolled student body.
“Thus, 73 percent of today’s total student enrollment is in some way traditional,” Jones said.
In order to improve its graduation rate, GHC implemented a number of programs, Jones continued, which includes getting students involved with the college and connected to the institution and an early warning system that contacts students throughout the semester at predetermined times to discuss their academic performance. If a student is not doing well advisors work to turn the student around earlier in the semester rather than later.
This year, Jones said, GHC’s graduation rate could hit a new record.
“It’s tricky right now. We’re looking at probably a 15 percent increase in our graduation totals versus last year’s graduation totals, putting us in the neighborhood of 620 to potentially 650 students, which would be a record graduation,” he said.
Following GHC’s presentation, chamber President and CEO Joe Frank Harris spoke to chamber members.
He said he wished to apologize for remarks he made at the February breakfast where he said, “If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere” in reference to businesses growth in Bartow County. After speaking with a local business owner who said he was struggling a few days after the February breakfast, Harris said he realized he got carried away. He then cited a failure of his own when he practiced law and opened an office in Adairsville that later closed.
“But for whatever reason the Lord said that ain’t the time to do that. What I encourage you to do is don’t give up. Be like Winston Churchill — sit in there and try very hard. Your lack in skills, be willing to accept the coaching,” Harris said. “A lot of my failures were based on the fact that I was so highly educated and so smart and so stubborn and so prideful that I wouldn’t listen to my wife, I wouldn’t listen to my folks, I wouldn’t listen to people who tried to give me good advice. After you fail, you tend to ask for advice. As for that, if you lack training and skills, don’t be scared, go get the education.”
The chamber also reminded its members the Atlanta Steeplechase is scheduled for April 19, and a family carnival is scheduled to be held May 8 at the Georgia Power pavillion off Picklesimer Road. Prior to the breakfast, members of the Adairsville High School Drama Department gave a performance from “Little Shop of Horrors,” which the department will present March 13, 14 and 15.