Gordon State Examines Data for Student Success

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. C. Jeffery Knighton opens discussion with Gordon State College faculty and staff for Data Day 2019.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. C. Jeffery Knighton opens discussion with Gordon State College faculty and staff for Data Day 2019.

By Katheryne Fields, Gordon State College Director of Marketing

Gordon State College faculty and staff spent Friday’s Data Day examining and sharing reports, information and ideas to enhance student success

As part of the institution’s Strategic Plan, a five-year road map that includes monitoring and reporting data to appropriate stakeholders, the day started with Dr. Alan Burstein, who was named the college’s Chancellor’s Learning Scholar (CLS) for 2019. Burstein, a Professor of Business for the Department of Business and Social Sciences has served as director of Institutional Research and Division Chair and in other roles for the college as well. Data Day

Burstein shared the results of a recent Community College Survey of Student Engagement specific for Gordon State College students. Burstein specifically focused on applying the results of the 2019 CCSSE study to Gordon’s Highlander EDGE. EDGE stands for the qualities that set Gordon State graduates apart: Engaged Innovators, Dedicated Scholars, Gifted Communicators, Ethical Leaders.

“To enhance our student success, we have to take the information we have from the CCSSE and begin to sharpen The Highlander EDGE,” Burstein said.  “This is our first attempt to measure the EDGE. We demonstrated strength in engaged innovators and critical thinking. We need to increase our opportunities for ethical leadership and dedicated scholars.”

The CCSSE study reflected Gordon students rated their experience as good or excellent, which Berstein stated speaks volumes to the efforts of faculty and staff.

Gordon State College also made significant gains in retention efforts. Freshmen retention of the fall 2018 freshmen class increased to 58.2%, an increase of 10% over fall 17 freshmen retention.  Gordon State College also led among state colleges and ranked third in the system overall last year in percentage of first year students taking 15 or more credits in fall semester.  These data points are key indicators that Gordon State College is making significant improvements in student success, and these trends will also help us build enrollment.

Assistant vice president for Academic Excellence Peter Higgins reported the college experienced significant improvements in subgroups of retention. African-American male retention was up about 13 points, and residential students were retained at a higher rate than commuting students for the first time in several years, he stated.

Also, students who earned an A, B, or C in the new first-year seminar, FIRE 1000, were retained at more than 70 percent and 14 points higher than freshman who did not enroll in FIRE 1000. First-Generation Students (defined as students with neither parent having attending college) who passed FIRE 1000 were retained at 73 percent, which is 3.5 points higher than the retention rate for “Continuing Generation” Students (students who have parents who earned a baccalaureate degree).

Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness Britt Lifsey explained how the USG system provides institutions with the productivity of academic programs. 

He shared an analysis of program productivity of existing programs at Gordon. The productivity metric is based on a three-year average of both the degrees conferred from academic programs as well as the number of students majoring in the academic programs.  In fall 2019, the Institutional Research office utilized an IR Fellow from faculty to further review data on a low producing program.

The University System of Georgia report for Fall Semester 2019 reflected enrollment increased at 11 institutions, while 13 had a decline and 2 were relatively flat. Enrollment at Gordon State College for the fall 2019 semester is 3495, a decline of 4.6 percent from last fall. 

Dr. John Head, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs stated the decline in enrollment was not desired but it was something that the college had been expecting. Gordon State College has been in a period of enrollment decline for several years, and the number of new freshmen each year has been getting smaller. Given that trend, the number of returning students has been decreasing in subsequent years. 

Fall Semester 2019 has several bright spots, however.  GSC was able to stop the decline in the number of beginning freshmen, and Gordon State College is one of two institutions in the state college sector, which includes nine institutions, that reflected a slight increase in beginning freshman.  

“This is a critical step in Gordon State College reversing the enrollment decline,” Head said. “While our enrollment is not where we want it to be, we know we are making progress in the right direction.”

The end of Data Day included GSC faculty submitting proposals for new academic programs to be considered by the University System of Georgia and The Board of Regents. These new program proposals are based on information received through the college’s Workforce Development and GSC Market studies to accurately determine needs of the 14-county service region.  

The CCSSE data reflected transferring to another institution as the number one reason students stated for leaving GSC, which Burstein stressed was another factor for the college to propose new programs to retain students.

“We are excited about the future of Gordon State College,” Head said. “With the approval and launch of the institution’s Strategic Plan in July and the Enrollment Management Plan this fall, we have charted a path to sustained enrollment growth and student success.

Our goal is to be the leader in education and an engine for economic growth and development in middle Georgia.”