Writer: Jessica Pope and Aaron Diamant
Published January 12, 2021
Valdosta State University Newsroom
University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Steve Wrigley announced plans today to retire July 1, 2021, after 36 years in public service. He has served as the 13th chancellor of the university system since 2017, overseeing 26 public colleges and universities with a $9.8 billion annual budget, 48,000 faculty and staff, and more than 341,000 students.
“It has been a great privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Georgia,” Wrigley said. “During a career in education policy and administration, I have worked with many incredible people and made countless cherished friendships. The mission of the University System of Georgia is essential to our state, the work of its faculty and staff invaluable, and the leadership of its presidents and board extraordinary."
“I am grateful to my family and members of the Board of Regents for their support and guidance, and I especially appreciate the support and leadership of Governors Kemp and Deal during my time as chancellor,” Wrigley added. “Thanks to the vision of Georgia governors and members of the General Assembly over many years, Georgians can be proud of their university system, which is recognized among the best in the nation. As a graduate of this system, it has been a special honor to help students pursue their own dreams.”
“For several decades, Chancellor Wrigley has devoted his career to serving his fellow Georgians,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said. “Since assuming his role as chancellor of the University System of Georgia, he has helped our higher education system achieve new heights. More than any time in recent history, it is critical that we maintain a laser focus on educating and training the next generation to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Chancellor Wrigley has been a tireless advocate for our students and faculty throughout the University System and, thanks to his dedicated leadership, the Peach State is well-positioned to continue providing a world-class education to our best and brightest and produce a workforce that serves as a model to the country. Marty, the girls, and I thank Chancellor Wrigley and his wife, Lynne, for their years of service and wish them the very best in the years ahead.”
“The Board and I want to thank Dr. Wrigley for his commitment to public service, his dedication to education and to serving our students, faculty, and staff,” Board of Regents Chairman Sachin Shailendra said. “Personally, I want to thank Steve for his leadership as chancellor and for his friendship, and we congratulate him on his well-earned and much deserved retirement. We will miss him.”
During his time as chancellor, Wrigley focused on three top priorities for USG: make college more affordable and more efficient and ensure more Georgians enter the workforce with a college credential.
Under Wrigley’s leadership, USG:
Launched the data-driven “Momentum Year” student success initiative to focus on increasing college completion rates, help more students earn a college degree, and close gaps in academic achievement.
Experienced an almost 10 percentage point increase in four-year graduation rates — a rate that has risen for each of the past six cohorts of entering freshmen.
Saw among the largest increases in the nation over the last five years for six-year college completion rates, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Awarded 70,879 degrees this past fiscal year, the most in the system’s 89-year history. Since 2011, the number of USG degrees awarded annually has increased by more than 29 percent.
Received the 2019-2020 Exceptional Agency Award by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, which recognizes leadership, dedication, and innovation in state higher education policy and administration.
Kept average annual tuition increases over the past five years to 0.9 percent, less than the rate of inflation. USG has not raised tuition for three of the last five years, including for the current academic year, while its spending per degree over the last six years has declined 7 percent.
Reduced the number of USG institutions since 2011 from 35 to 26 and reinvested an estimated $30 million in savings from those consolidations into student programs and expanded academic course offerings.
Increased the use of free or low-cost textbooks as an alternative to expensive traditional textbooks, including launching the Affordable Learning Georgia initiative. USG students in Spring 2020 alone saved $27 million using no-cost and low-cost options. And through the system’s eCore program, students can take the entire core curriculum online and the textbooks are free.
Recorded a record-high enrollment in Fall 2020 of more than 341,000 students.
Completed a Comprehensive Administrative Review of all 26 institutions and the system office, with a focus on improving administration by finding ways to be more effective with state resources. This initiative reduced administrative costs by more than $110 million and reinvested those savings into programs that directly impact students, including hiring more advisors to ensure students take the courses they need to graduate on time.
Created the Mental Health Task Force to continue to evaluate and address the growing concern of mental health challenges on college campuses.
Wrigley assumed the role of chancellor in January 2017. Prior to that, he served as USG’s executive vice chancellor of administration from June 2011 until his appointment as chancellor. He formerly served in leadership roles at the University of Georgia as senior vice president for external affairs, vice president for government relations, and director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Prior to his service in the university system, he served as chief of staff to former Georgia Governor Zell Miller and worked on a number of key issues, including the creation of the state lottery and the groundbreaking HOPE Scholarship.
Wrigley has been named to Georgia Trend’s list of “100 Most Influential Georgians” for each of the past three years. Leadership Georgia also awarded him its 2019 J.W. Fanning Award, which recognizes contributions in progressive leadership and service on behalf of the state.
He serves on the Executive Committee of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and as a board member for the Richard B. Russell Foundation, Georgia Wildlife Federation, and the USG Foundation.
Wrigley earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia State University and his doctorate in history from Northwestern University. He and his wife, Lynne, have two children and one grandson.
The Board of Regents is discussing next steps for choosing USG’s next chancellor.