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GGC president says college is achieving mission of success

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Georgia Gwinnett College is reinventing public higher education -- and President Daniel Kaufman said he's got the data to prove it.

The retention rate -- the proportion of students that returned to the school the following fall -- for the freshman class that entered Georgia Gwinnett College in 2007 was 73 percent, Kaufman said Thursday to faculty and staff. The retention rate for the freshman class that started in 2008 increased to 75 percent.

"Remember we're an access school, and that's an extraordinary retention rate," Kaufman said. "At an access institution, you are retaining our students at the same rate as those with highly selective admissions policy. That game is changing the face of public higher education.

"So when I tell you the experiment's working, when I tell you are in fact reimaging higher education, we can now prove it."

Kaufman said the college will strive to keep its retention rates high. But he wants to do more than keep the students coming back -- he wants them to graduate.

At state colleges, the four-year graduation rate for the class that entered in 2005 was 8 percent, Kaufman said.

"I don't know where you went to school, but where I went to school, an eight was an 'F' -- a serious 'F,'" he said.

Georgia Gwinnett College's current four-year graduation goal is 35 percent.

"For that the class that enters in 2011, we want to graduate half of them," Kaufman said. "That's our goal, and that's going to be pretty extraordinary stuff."

Kaufman said student retention, progression and graduation has been the college's goal since it opened in 2006.

"Everything that we do -- faculty, staff, whoever it is -- is devoted to the success of our students. So we're not having to change anything," Kaufman said. "Devotion to student success is embedded in our DNA. It's what you do. It's the hallmark of this institution, and it truly is making a difference."