President Cabrera speaks with students

The True Measure of Success


Dear Georgia Tech Community:

There is no better way to measure a university’s success than by the impact it has on the people and communities it serves.  

Rankings can be useful marketing tools — I definitely appreciate seeing Georgia Tech listed among the best universities in the country, as do prospective students — but they ultimately reflect the preferences of an editorial board with little interest in who we are or what we are trying to accomplish. Rather than letting others define us, we are better served by crafting our own scorecard — one rooted in our identity, our history and context, and our shared dreams and aspirations. 

That is why, soon after I arrived at Georgia Tech in 2019, I asked our community to come together to create a new strategic plan that would define our vision for the future. During that process, we agreed that the Institute’s chief end is to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. We reaffirmed our values — recognizing students as our top priority — and articulated how we could best serve our students, our state, and our broader society. And we committed to amplify our impact and scale, to champion innovation and entrepreneurship, to engage globally, to expand access, to cultivate the well-being of our community, and to lead by example in our own practices.  

Two years into this journey, I am delighted to report that we are making good progress in delivering on those goals. Thanks to the dedication and ingenuity of our community, the Institute has more impact today than ever before. We attract and serve more students, we produce more talent, we win more research awards in critical sectors for our nation and our world, we develop more startups, and we attract more leading companies that drive innovation and create economic opportunity here at home and across the globe. 

This year, despite a challenging environment for higher education, we received more than 50,000 applications for first-year admission — a record for the Institute as well as the state of Georgia — and welcomed an incoming class of about 3,700 first-year students. By the time these students graduate, they will command some of the best starting salaries in the nation. Our students and alumni contribute so much value that leading companies not only recruit at Georgia Tech but are increasingly setting up shop in the neighborhood to make it easier to attract talent.  

Independent ratings consistently place Georgia Tech among the nation’s top schools for student return on investment (ROI). ROI, of course, factors in both our graduates’ salaries and the cost of attendance. Thanks to state investments, enrollment growth, and fiscal prudence, Georgia Tech has been able not only to avoid raising tuition but to reduce it. This fall, undergraduate tuition and fees for in-state students will be $11,764, compared to $12,682 three years ago — a 7% reduction (or 19% when adjusted for inflation).  

Research activity has also reached new records. In the National Science Foundation’s latest Higher Education Research and Development Survey, published in late 2021 using data from fiscal year 2020, Georgia Tech was one of only 21 universities in the country with research expenditures exceeding $1 billion — and among that impressive group, we were the top institution without a medical school. Since then, new research and sponsored activity awards have kept growing, reaching a record $1.2 billion during fiscal year 2021 and nearly $1.3 billion this past fiscal year.  

Dollars, of course, do not capture the true impact of the research we do — the scientific breakthroughs, the technological advances, the influence across disciplines, or the applications of direct human value. But overall, research awards and expenditures matter a great deal because they allow us to attract some of the most talented researchers in the nation and provide them with the advanced facilities and equipment they need to make a difference. In the innovation business, talent and ideas breed talent and ideas. Scale really matters. 

In addition to serving students and making outsized contributions to our nation’s innovation fabric, Georgia Tech also plays a vital economic development role, most visibly in our home state — though extending well beyond it. According to the University of Georgia’s annual economic impact report produced for the Board of Regents, Georgia Tech had an immediate statewide impact of nearly $4.2 billion in fiscal year 2021 — the highest in the state — and about 22% of the total impact of all public universities in Georgia. But that figure does not include our most important, though less quantifiable, contributions: the talent we provide to help employers grow, the support we provide to our state industries, the startups we incubate, the philanthropic dollars we raise and invest, or the leading companies we help attract to Georgia.  

These contributions are particularly visible in the neighborhoods around our campus. In partnership with our affiliates — most notably the Georgia Tech Foundation and Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures (GATV) — and other public and private organizations, we helped transform Midtown Atlanta into a thriving innovation hub that combines industry leaders and startups with attractive residential and commercial options. This past year, thanks to state investments and instrumental contributions from the George, Scheller, and Stewart families as well as other leading philanthropists, we were able to begin work on Tech Square Phase 3. The focus of this third and final phase of construction is a two-tower complex in the heart of the neighborhood that will house the Scheller College of Business and the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, supporting the Institute’s growth and strengthening the district’s startup ecosystem. 

On the south side of campus, construction has begun on a new innovation district focused on the life sciences. Located at the corner of North Avenue and Northside Drive, Science Square is being developed by private investors on land owned by GATV, and the first units are expected to open for business in 2024. Over time, we expect Science Square to grow into a biomedical research and technology hub that will focus on devices and therapeutics with the power to improve and save lives.  

With an exciting strategic plan as our guide, and strong winds in our sails, we have been quietly raising funds toward a new campaign that will help us invest in our growth and achieve even more. This summer, we unveiled Transforming Tomorrow: The Campaign for Georgia Tech, our most ambitious advancement effort to date, with the goal of raising more than $2 billion to multiply our impact and shape the future for decades to come — transforming lives, ideas, learning, our community, and our world.

Since our founding in the late 19th century, Georgia Tech has always set itself apart with a trademark spirit of innovation and improvement. Generation after generation, we have dedicated ourselves to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges and creating a brighter future for everyone, even as we continually seek out ways to transform ourselves and become a better Institute than ever before. 

Based on yet another record-setting year, I’m proud to report that this community is clearly getting the job done. That’s what this report is about, and I invite you to read through these inspiring stories from the past year.

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