The University of Georgia has launched a new grant program to help needy seniors facing financial challenges complete their degrees.
UGA President Jere Morehead announced the new “completion grants” initiative Wednesday during his annual State of the University speech in the UGA Chapel. The pilot program, funded with $250,000 in private dollars, will award grants of up to $2,000 to help seniors graduate.
Every year, some 200 UGA seniors struggle with financial shortfalls, often less than $1,000 but enough to force some to drop out before meeting graduation requirements, said Morehead, in his fifth year as UGA president.
The initiative was one of several Morehead announced Wednesday, some of them from a Task Force on Student Learning and Success headed by UGA Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav.
Other initiatives will include drives to make writing a more important part of the UGA curriculum and to ensure students are data literate.
“Data literacy is not optional for success in our society and our economy. It is imperative,” Morehead said.
A new “ALL Georgia” program, funded at $300,000 over five years, will help students from rural areas with the “unique challenges” they face at UGA. Many students from rural areas come from low-income backgrounds, Morehead said.
Morehead will also put $1 million into changing some traditional UGA classrooms into “active learning spaces” and fund a summer program to teach faculty how to use active learning strategies.
The university will also spend $300,000 to implement more than 20 projects meant to promote the goals of inclusion and diversity.
Morehead touted university success stories and progress over the past year, beginning with its football team’s “magical” season as it won its first SEC championship in more than a decade and went on to play in college football’s national championship game.
Private donations have set records in each of the past four years and have averaged $185 million a year over the past three years. The university should easily reach or exceed the $1.2 billion goal of its current fundraising campaign, Morehead said.
The record totals are a “clear sign that the culture of giving is changing within the University of Georgia family,” he said.
Morehead revisited three broad missions for UGA that he had announced a year ago in his State of the University address, including increasing need-based scholarship support, enhancing the campus learning environment and helping solve the “grand challenges” facing the state, nation and world.
“The signs of progress are beginning to show” in fulfilling those missions, he said.
A year ago, Morehead announced a goal of endowing more than 400 need-based scholarships. The UGA Foundation would match donations of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 in the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program. To date, more than 200 of those scholarships have been funded, he said Wednesday.
UGA’s new Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy is an example of the school’s effort to meet grand challenges, Morehead said, along with the CyberArch program in which UGA experts have helped businesses, governments and agencies in two Georgia counties meet cybersecurity and privacy needs.
He also noted UGA research spending is up 31 percent in four years.
Morehead has now appointed another task force, headed by UGA Vice President for Research David Lee, to devise ways to “build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship” which can “maximize the university’s impact,” he said.