UGA Athletics boosts academic mission

While the University of Georgia faithful are gearing up to sing “glory, glory to old Georgia” this fall, hundreds of UGA students are singing the praises of the UGA Athletic Association for providing funding for their college educations.

The Athletic Association has a strong track record of supporting the university’s academic enterprise. Each year, the association makes a contribution to the UGA Foundation to support significant institutional priorities. Recent annual contributions have ranged from $4 million to $5 million, and the association has provided more than $28 million in financial support to the university since fiscal year 2007.

Since fiscal year 2010, a substantial portion of these funds has been used to strengthen two important student scholarship programs at UGA-the Georgia Access Scholarship and the Presidential Leadership Scholarship. Initially, these programs received $500,000 from the association. The allocation to each scholarship program was increased to $1 million when UGA President Jere W. Morehead took office in fiscal year 2014.

“The Athletic Association has been a strong partner in advancing the academic mission of the University of Georgia,” Morehead said. “These annual contributions to merit- and need-based scholarship programs help the institution to attract academically talented students and to make the world-class education we provide more affordable.”

This fall, the merit-based Presidential Leadership Scholarship program is providing renewable funding for 271 undergraduates, including 46 first-time recipients. These students were chosen for $3,000 renewable scholarships based on a record of strong academic achievement and a history of accomplishment and leadership in co-curricular activities.

Contributions from the Athletic Association have funded 1,233 need-based awards through the Georgia Access Scholarship, with more awards to come this year. This scholarship program provides much-needed financial assistance to undergraduate students from Georgia who are both eligible for the federal Pell Grant and are from families with annual incomes of $40,000 or less.

“It is a privilege for the Athletic Association to support the academic mission and priority initiatives of the institution,” said Greg McGarity, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics. “To be able to assist our students in such a meaningful way is especially rewarding.”

Contributions from the Athletic Association also were used last fall to launch an innovative undergraduate research assistantship program through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, or CURO. This assistantship program provides $1,000 stipends to 300 outstanding undergraduate students to conduct research in close partnership with faculty and graduate students as part of established research teams. CURO, which is open to all undergraduates at UGA regardless of major, grade point average or Honors Program status, has seen an increase in student participation due to this expanded support. During the 2014-15 school year, UGA students registered for 688 CURO courses for a total of 2,253 credit hours-a 17 percent increase in courses from the 2013-14 academic year and a 13 percent increase in credit hours.

The Athletic Association provided an additional $1 million in fiscal year 2015 to support students through the university’s new experiential learning initiative, which will promote undergraduate research, study abroad, service-learning, internships and other high-impact experiences. UGA will become the largest public university to integrate experiential learning fully into the undergraduate curriculum when the program is implemented in fall 2016.