Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
On the drive in to work this morning there was a radio report about “Contract Cheating”, the pervasive availability of vendors of college essays and assignments, enabling students to purchase products in order to cheat at college. “TurnItIn”, the long established program available to professors to counter academic dishonesty in forms of plagiarism and cheating, is upping its data analytics to cope with ever more sophisticated algorithms that have been developed to advance cheating. We have sadly seen academic integrity as an at risk behavior of some students for time immemorial. It is clear, however, that adults, vendors and universities themselves are now capable of even more egregious and pernicious behavior around college life and admissions.
Last month a new Admissions scandal exploded in the US, leading to more than 50 individuals and entities charged with bribery and corruption in securing undeserved places in elite colleges for the children of the wealthy and famous, and scores of colleges and universities anxiously reviewing their recruitment strategies. Prestigious institutions of higher learning, for decades in the public limelight over Admissions policies such as affirmative action and international recruitment preferences, are now being scrutinized for corruption in Admissions practices. “College admissions” is a phrase that since mid-March has been at the forefront again of news articles, opinion pieces, blog posts. Within this larger conversation, it is worthwhile to reflect on admissions here at Middle Georgia State – and why removing barriers to attaining a degree is important.
In our role as a state university within the University System of Georgia, we have a blended function that allows us to offer students who enter at varying levels of academic readiness the opportunity to a achieve a quality education. Our doors are open perhaps a bit wider than those at other colleges and universities around the country – and that’s a good thing. Education, after all, is not a zero-sum game, and knowledge is not a capital resource of finite quantity. Learning, rather, has a multiplier effect: as the overall education level in an area increases, so too does the quality of life in that area. As aptly stated by President John F. Kennedy, “a rising tide lifts all boats.“
This is not a mere philosophical point. There are empirical, quantifiable benefits to an educated population – both to the individual and to the society as a whole. Workforce needs have shifted dramatically in the past decades, and the percentage of jobs requiring a degree has consistently increased and will continue to do so. An educated workforce has higher employment rates, higher job satisfaction, and contributes to a more robust economy. It is my opinion that universities and colleges would do well to embrace and demonstrate the language of economic value, professional outcome and workforce strength that is garnered by a university education.
Middle Georgia State University’s acceptance rate last fall was roughly 87% – for every 100 students who wish to walk through our doors and seek a degree, we invite 87 to complete their journey here. These students come from backgrounds as diverse and varied as our nation. They enter with different levels of academic readiness, from students who need a little extra help getting started on their collegiate journey to those who join us with college credit already on the books from AP, IB and dual-enrolled courses. To all of these students, we are proud to say, “Welcome!”
Our tagline – “Greatness starts here” – refers to the capacity for greatness that each person carries within them as well as the capacity for greatness that we all share as a community of people working together. Ensuring that education is something to which more, not fewer, people have access is a goal that will help us all, as members of that community, come closer to that goal.
As admissions and registration for Fall 2019 continue, I challenge each of us to keep in mind the need to provide access to students within our communities, our state, and our nation. Greatness is a goal shared by many, both collectively and individually. Numbering over 40,000 worldwide, our alumni are leaders and professionals who are elevating their families and communities. They are evidence that greatness is not just reserved for those that attended “elite” universities – it is indeed open to all that wish to aspire to it and strive to achieve it. And that the path to achieving that greatness is one that can only be paved by integrity, transparency, equity and meritocracy.
On my office wall, I have a copy of a 1772 print from London, entitled The Hopes of the Family: An Admission at the University. It shows a nervous young man, being scrutinized and examined by pompous and mocking professors and administrators. It is a reminder of the exclusive and elitist culture that University education has for centuries communicated to the public. I am proud that our faculty and staff – and especially our hard-working Admissions staff – are ensuring that we provide a decent, humane, ethical and accessible route into MGA for those who would choose to experience their education and find their greatness here.