Dalton State Graduation Climbs Despite Pandemic


Dalton State’s graduation rate continues to climb, up 8.4%, even through the pandemic and a slight dip in enrollment. And the college is on track to award more degrees than ever this year compared to previous years.

“We knew this would be a tough year because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus,” said Dr. Margaret Venable, president of the college. “But our increase in the graduation rate and the total number of degrees we are awarding show the hard work and dedication of our students, as well as our faculty and staff. The number of graduates has increased steadily over the last decade, and the number of baccalaureate degrees has increased during that time by 128%.”

The increases in the graduation rate and number of degrees awarded are expected to continue as the college focuses efforts on student retention and completion. A $2.16 million Title V grant awarded to the college last year has been used to improve areas directly impacting student success, such as tutoring and advising.

Also, the college offers a variety of degrees to fulfil workforce needs, such as in health care, chemistry, engineering technology, sustainability, logistics and supply chain management and education.

“The success we’re seeing is due to these efforts,” said Dr. Jodi Johnson, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services. “We want our students to do well and find employment in their field following graduation. More than half of our students are among the first in their families to attend college; they need a little extra support to succeed. We engage them early and encourage them to participate in high impact practices that help make meaningful connections and keep them on track for graduation.”

Dalton State saw a decline of 3.4% in enrollment this fall, which follows a trend among state colleges in the University System of Georgia (USG), according to numbers released by the USG this week.

“We anticipated the dip in enrollment,” Johnson said. “A lot of students have delayed entering college due to the pandemic. Plus, college enrollment was already trending downward nationwide before the pandemic hit. It is a hard time for many right now. Our students have other commitments, such as caring for family members, that have impacted their decision to attend college.

“We are getting creative with our efforts to reach current and potential students and help them connect with the college,” she said. “For example, we recently hosted a drive-through tour and drive-in movie night. We have started hosting in-person tours again. And all 26 institutions in the USG, which includes Dalton State, have waived the ACT/SAT test requirements through at least the end of 2021.”

Even with the dip in enrollment, Dalton State’s Hispanic student population continues to rise, up 2% from last year to 33%. Dalton State is Georgia’s first and only Hispanic-Serving Institution, a federal designation achieved when the Hispanic student population at the college reached 25% in 2018.

The dual enrollment population also remains steady. The dual enrollment program allows high school students to take college courses that count toward college credit and a high school diploma at no cost to them. This means students can graduate college earlier and spend less money doing so.