Redefining enrollment: focus on student success

Yesterday, Dr. Sheri Rowland shared with us our enrollment figures for fall 2014, which show that we are reversing a negative trend. Having reduced our year-over-year drop in enrollment from 10% in fall 2013 to a mere 1% decrease this year gives us reason to be hopeful about the future at Middle Georgia State.  As I thank you all for the tireless efforts that have brought us this far, I also invite you to reconsider what the term “enrollment” means.

Enrollment is more than headcount. According to Webster’s dictionary, to enroll means to “take (someone) as a member or participant” or to “become a member or participant.” In short, enrollment is all about relationships: our relationship to our students and their relationship to the institution.

Taking someone as a member requires partnership—it is about more than getting them in the door, it is about keeping them engaged and on track. And becoming a participant is about more than showing up—it is about committing to growth and progress.

As a college seeking university status, our relationships are—at their essence—our ability to drive student success. Beyond our own passion for that mission, the state of Georgia is encouraging our focus on retention and graduation through the Complete College Georgia initiative.

As I shared with you at the beginning of the semester, success on Complete College Georgia is one of our wildly important goals for 2014-15. In Fiscal Year 2016—which is only 11 months away—performance-based state funding will become reality. This means that numbers coming into and returning to Middle Georgia State will count only as much as the numbers going out are progressing and earning degrees in a timely fashion.

I am working with my Cabinet to identify key steps we can take institutionally to drive student success. Yet, our success on Complete College Georgia will require collaboration not just among leadership, but across the entire Middle Georgia State community.

For faculty and staff, this means our teaching, scheduling, advising, support services and financial models must be rooted in a student-centered approach. For students, this may simply mean working at a set and determined pace to achieve your goals—taking an interest in and responsibility for your progression toward a degree. For the communities in which we live and work, a new level of engagement with MGA will be vital—from partnerships with area businesses and organizations, to support for our students from their families, friends, employers and neighbors.

We come to this point in our history with some wonderful, existing strengths.  Now we need to harness those in a way that places student progress and graduation at the very heart of why we choose to work or study at Middle Georgia State.