Universities

Enrollment drops for second year at Georgian universities

ATLANTA (AP) — Student numbers fell for the second straight year at Georgia’s public colleges and universities, even as the state’s most prestigious universities continued to grow.

While Georgia’s universities had outstripped the country in enrollment for years, numbers fell more sharply this year, dropping 1.8%, compared to 1.1% fewer students nationwide tracked by the National Student Clearinghouse.

Angela Bell, vice chancellor for research and policy analysis, attributed the decline to several factors, including people dropping out of school for jobs, fewer students graduating from high school and fewer good academic results due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“USG has had better enrollment results than the country as a whole over the past few years, although this fall the comparison is a bit mixed,” Bell told the Regents.

The system has enrolled 334,000 students in total across its 26 institutions, up from 340,000 last fall and an all-time high of 341,000 in fall 2020.

Chancellor Sonny Perdue said the declines posed “some challenges”. He said system officials were looking at “what can we do to alleviate the demographic challenges, the workplace challenges” to attract more students, including adults. He said enrollment should improve if the economy declines.

“These challenges are not unique to us, it’s national,” Perdue said. “But I don’t take the excuse that just because everyone is affected by it doesn’t mean we are too.”

The number of high school graduates is likely to fall for years from the end of the decade, due to falling birth rates.

He said the system could consider controlling costs in the 2024 budget which will start in the middle of next year.

“When you don’t have as many sales, you’re going to have fewer people, and we’re aligning that with 24 budgets in that regard,” Perdue said.

Eight schools saw increases, 17 saw decreases, and Dalton State College had stable enrollment. The fastest growing school, both in raw numbers and percentage, is Georgia Tech, which added 3.3% more students, crossing the 45,000 mark. research also increased – the University of Georgia and the University of Augusta. Georgia State University remained the largest in the system, with nearly 52,000 students, despite 0.6% fewer students.

This continued the trend of top schools thriving while enrollment declined elsewhere. Enrollment at second-tier comprehensive universities fell 3.7% overall, while the number of students at third-tier state universities fell 5.7%. Fourth-tier state colleges, where many students seek two-year degrees, stabilized somewhat after steep declines in previous years, down 2.4%

Enrollment fell the steepest at Clayton State University, dropping 14.1%. Other schools that saw double-digit declines include Savannah State University, down 12.1%; Valdosta State University, down 11.6%; and Atlanta Metropolitan State College, down 10.7%.

Enrollment fell in all four undergraduate years, as well as among high school students who were dual-enrolled in college courses. Graduate enrollment bucked state and national trends, rising 0.2%, but Bell said graduate enrollment appeared to be leveling off after surging during the pandemic. Much of the increase at Georgia Tech and overall graduate enrollment is due to the rapid expansion of online master’s degrees offered to professionals by Georgia Tech.

The share of white students in the system continues to decline, falling to 44% this year, with the share of Hispanic and Asian students increasing. The proportion of black students has remained stable.

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