Georgia State Gets Institutional Transformation Award From ACE And Fidelity Investments

Posted On March 16, 2015
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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Georgia State University has been recognized as a national leader in its effort to dramatically increase graduation rates by the American Council on Education (ACE), the largest education organization in the country.

Georgia State and Governors State (Ill.) University are the recipients of the 2015 American Council on Education (ACE)/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

It is only the second time ACE, composed of 1,700 member institutions across the country, has given the award. Arizona State University won the award last year.

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The awards were presented at ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting and were accepted by Georgia State University President Mark P. Becker and Governors State University President Elaine P. Maimon on behalf of their institutions.

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period, and includes a $10,000 prize. ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership.

This year, the award was split into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 5,000 and more (Georgia State) and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000 (Governors State).

“Georgia State and Governors State universities serve as excellent examples of the efforts our institutions are making to increase access to higher education and meet the needs of an ever-more diverse student body,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “We appreciate the generous support of Fidelity Investments for this award, which will allow us each year to recognize institutions where this type of dramatic transformation has occurred.”

Ten years ago, Georgia State’s institutional graduation rate stood at 32 percent, and low-income students receiving Pell Grants were graduating at rates 15 percentage points below those of non-Pell students.

As a result of a campus-wide commitment to student success and strategic programs, the university has closed its achievement gap. The institutional graduation rate has improved 22 points in the past decade—among the highest increases in the nation over this period. Pell students now graduate at rates equal to those of non-Pell students. And for each of the past three years, Georgia State has conferred more bachelor’s degrees on African Americans than any non-profit college or university in the United States, with at-risk students making the greatest gains in degree attainment.

“Georgia State University is testimony to the fact that students from all backgrounds can succeed at high rates,” said Becker. “Our efforts over the past few years show that dramatic gains are indeed possible—not through changing the nature of the students served but through changing the nature of the institution that serves them.”

Governors State University became a full-service university in fall 2014, admitting freshmen for the first time. Seventy-four percent of its current freshman class is students of color and 67 percent receive Pell Grants. The university focused on providing a high-quality university experience for freshmen, while at the same time strengthening its commitment to adult learners and transfer students through its Dual Degree Program that partners with 17 Chicago-area community colleges. The result is a freshman program with all courses taught in small classes by full-time faculty members. And the university provides outstanding support—transfer counselors and peer mentors—to students in its 17 partner community colleges.

“We hope to influence other universities to invest in first-year courses, to create a clear pathway from community college to university graduation and to reallocate resources to better serve 21st-century students,” said Maimon.

“Fidelity Investments is honored to partner with ACE to make this award possible,” saidRick Mitchell, executive vice president, Tax-Exempt Market & Retirement Solutions, Fidelity Investments. “Georgia State and Governors State universities have shown exceptional leadership and achievement within the higher education community and deserve recognition for their efforts to make higher education more accessible to all students.”