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Regents adopt ‘mission creep’ policy

Albany State University Students walk into the ASU Student Center on Thursday. (Terry Lewis)

Albany State University Students walk into the ASU Student Center on Thursday. (Terry Lewis)

ATLANTA — The University System of Georgia Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a new “Institutional Function and Mission Policy” that will have a significant and long-term effect on the types of programs and services offered by all 31 of the state’s public Colleges and universities — including Albany State University and Darton State College.

The new policy, which went into effect immediately, is aimed at ending the duplication of degree programs and prevent the overlapping of services — also known as “mission creep.”

Institutions will be required to develop programs and plans that support the mission of the institution and the sector in which it is placed, as determined by the regents as part of overall system goals.

“Given the size of the system and the demands and expectations placed upon it as well as the reality resources are finite, we need to have a structure that clearly defines what institutions do and the types of programs and areas that are appropriate,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby said. “The board’s new strategic plan, along with our Complete College Georgia work, requires that we be focused and use our resources wisely. This new policy supports our work in both areas, particularly as we seek to significantly increase the number of Georgians completing college.”

Basically, the USG, operating under tight budget constraints in hard economic times, will give closer scrutiny to the expansion of academic programs like Darton State’s recent RN to BSN baccalaureate program. Albany State University and Georgia Southwestern State University also offer BSN programs.

“Over the years, Darton State has added and will continue to add a number of transfer and career programs, having most recently added a four-year bachelor of nursing degree.” Tracy Goode, Darton dean for advancement and public relations, said. “We will continue to work with the University System of Georgia to identify and add degree programs as the demand for new programs rises.”

Under the new policy, the regents will look at four areas in determining both the mission and sector of the 31 institutions. These are:

  • The institution’s current academic programs of study;
  • Access and admissions selectivity;
  • Geographic area of responsibility;
  • Emphasis on research, teaching and service.

“In regard to Albany State, we are very pleased; we think this new policy will help us move forward with our mission as an institution,” ASU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Beverly Edmond said Thursday. “The Regents have issued a policy which aligns well with our mission, and they have clarified our roles, purposes and goals. We really regard it as a win-win for everybody.

“Our state is facing real economic challenges and not having redundancies or overlaps in programs and services is important.”

The board has established four sectors for the system’s institutions: research universities, comprehensive universities, state universities and state colleges. The state college sector has two subsectors.

  • Research universities offer a broad array of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, offer doctoral degrees and have high or very high research activity.
  • Comprehensive universities offer a number of undergraduate and master’s-level programs with some doctoral programs. Typically, associate degrees are not offered at comprehensive universities. Research is emphasized but not as heavily as with Research Universities.
  • State universities offer bachelor and master’s degrees and limited associate-level degrees. Limited doctoral programs also are offered by this sector. They conduct some basic research, but it is typically focused on institutional and/or applied research.
  • Category I state colleges offer general education courses, a balanced number of associate and bachelor’s degree programs that are focused on demonstrated local need and no graduate programs. Teaching and service are emphasized with a limited focus on research.
  • Category II state colleges offer general education, associate-level degree programs and limited and specialized and workforce-focused bachelor’s programs. Teaching and service are emphasized with limited focus on research.

Albany State falls under the “state universities” category, while Darton State is among the “Category II state colleges.”

“While we would have preferred to be categorized as category I, I believe that, as in the past, Darton will continue to grow; and as that happens, we will be able to offer the four-year degree based on the needs and demands of our students,” Darton State College Foundation Chairman Glenn Tennyson said. “In other words, we will grow out of this current challenge. Our mission to try and offer more four-year degrees has not changed.”

The new policy is the first hard look the regents has taken at institutional missions since the mid-1990s, when it adopted a policy to prohibit any changes to the names and missions of the system’s then 34 institutions.