Starting the Year with Two Big Changes

As you settle down in the rhythm of the fall semester, I want to highlight two big changes this year that will likely have a significant impact on students and academic programs throughout campus. One is a policy change based on a modification to HOPE (HB801), which was passed earlier this year and will impact a large number of our undergraduate students. The second is the Double Dawgs Degree Pathway program that provides an exciting opportunity for our students to achieve more during their time at UGA.

The Georgia House Bill 801, which went into effect on July 1, 2017, modified the eligibility criteria for HOPE scholarship. The bill provides that, effective Fall 2017, HOPE eligibility will use a weighted GPA calculation for approved STEM courses that are “academically rigorous and required for or leading to employment in high demand fields in Georgia in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

So, what does this mean for our students at UGA? Students taking one of the 147 approved UGA STEM Weighted Courses will be get an additional 0.5 added to their GPA, if they have a grade of B, C, or D. This change is applied only to their HOPE and Zell Scholarship GPAs and not to their overall GPA. Since UGA uses a plus/minus grading system for overall GPA, but the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship permits straight letter grades of A through F only, a 0.5 boost could mean that a student receiving a C in an approved STEM class could actually have a GPA reflecting a letter grade of B. This can help them maintain their HOPE/Zell Miller scholarship even with some lower grades in specific STEM classes. The bill is designed to encourage more students to take STEM majors. We also anticipate that it will reduce the number of students who withdraw mid-semester if they feel at risk of losing HOPE/Zell due to their performance in these classes.

Please note that the approved courses are in STEM majors only. This rule does not apply to introductory STEM courses for non-STEM majors. The approved STEM Weighted Courses are in a searchable database, and you can sort these by course title or course number. I encourage advisors and faculty to familiarize themselves with this information so you are able to guide students appropriately about this change.

The second exciting initiative, which most of you have undoubtedly heard about in an announcement from Provost Whitten a couple of weeks ago, is our Double Dawgs Degree Pathway program. This program allows students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less, saving students considerable time and money while positioning themselves for greater success after graduation. When we put the call out for proposals in February, our goal was to get 50 programs approved by Fall 2017. Thanks to all your help, we blew past that number early this summer. As of today, we have 114 approved programs with more under review. Students are just as excited about the Double Dawgs Degree Pathway. The Double Dawgs website had almost 5,000 unique visitors within a few days of it being launched and we have already addressed almost 200 student inquiries.

With the successful launch of the Double Dawgs pathways, our efforts need to shift towards supporting the implementation of these programs and the students who wish to take advantage of these pathways. It is crucial for students to identify these pathways early and enroll in the right sequence of classes. Academic advisors, program coordinators and faculty have to play an important role in helping students plan and meet the necessary requirements. With this goal in mind, we will be sharing more information about these pathways with the advisors and others on campus. Our offices will also be seeking help from representatives in various departments/colleges to help promote their programs. One upcoming event where we will highlight these programs is the Discovery Showcase Majors Fair on Sept. 12, 11am-1pm in the Tate Center atrium and concourse. The Discovery Showcase saw over 700 students last year, and will be a great place to showcase the various programs available to students. I hope many of you are able to participate in this event.

We greatly appreciate your enthusiastic support for expanding the academic opportunities for our students through new and innovative ideas. If you have any questions about our programs and initiatives, or if you have ideas that you think will improve our level of instruction at UGA, please let me know at rahuls@uga.edu.

Sincerely,

Rahul Shrivastav
Vice President for Instruction