ATLANTA – The fastest and least-expensive way to address the need for cyber-security graduates is for the University System of Georgia to take a multi-campus approach, the Board of Regents learned Wednesday.

A task force of administrators from eight schools made that recommendation based on its research showing the state isn’t graduating enough students in the field to meet industry demand in Georgia.

Last year, the Peach State had 8,000 cyber-security job openings but just 46 graduates from the state’s public colleges to fill them, the task force found.

Many of the state’s 30 public universities are already offering pieces of the puzzle.

Georgia Regents University launched a cyber institute in June, for example. Armstrong State University recently opened its Center for Applied Cyber Education in Hinesville. And Georgia Tech houses several programs that deal with cyber security and professors conducting research into the field.

“The system is not inclined to have everyone ramp up programs that duplicate each other. Rather, we want to leverage the strengths of the area institutions,” said Gretchen Coughman, GRU’s provost and chair of the task force.

The consortium approach would tie all of the pieces together with a common curriculum and courses offered online.

If the regents agree, the task force will come up with a detailed plan – and budget – for hiring faculty, creating online courses and developing internships for students. The plan will include ways to get students interested in taking the cyber security courses once they exist.

“Part of the pipeline approach … is to get students at the middle- and high-school levels engaged,” Coughman said.

The board didn’t formally take action, but members expressed support for the initiative.

Regent Paul Bowers, who is president of Georgia Power, said every major U.S. corporation is focused on cyber security.

“There is a huge demand,” said Bowers, chairman of the regents’ Economic Development Committee. “…This is a growing opportunity for students to get engaged in, and everybody is looking for these resources. This is a great path for us to be on from an economic-development standpoint.”

That committee also heard from Marc Miller, newly appointed director of economic development at GRU, who outlined that school’s approach to turning academic discoveries into commercial operations. The university has long been involved in research for private companies, such as drug makers, but in recent months it has stepped up efforts to encourage professors to commercially develop their own ideas.

“People say, ‘Aren’t you just paying them to create their own company?’ Yeah, sort of, but we’ll still have a stake in them, and we’ll keep a portion of them in this area,” he said

Among his goals for the job are including innovations in the evaluation of tenure-track faculty, fostering closer relations with the community and adding entrepreneurial segments to the curriculum of nearly every major on campus.

“This is not limited to B-school students,” he said.

Regent Jim Hull of Augusta, applauded GRU for its efforts.

“It really is the way of the future,” he said.

Bowers agreed.

“This is absolutely the model for what we’re trying to achieve at all of our institutions,” he said.

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