AJC On Campus: Colleges tighten budgets, new higher ed chair named

A biweekly roundup of news and happenings from Georgia colleges and universities

Brace for a budget squeeze.

That was a main message Sonny Perdue, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, delivered to lawmakers during state budget hearings last week.

In this edition of AJC On Campus, we bring you updates about state funding for colleges, introduce you to the state senator who will be shaping higher education legislation and bring you college admissions news and more.

College budget warnings

Declining enrollments at most of Georgia’s 26 public colleges are leading to belt-tightening, job cuts and program realignments, which Perdue said will hurt some of the state’s smaller schools.

He warned that lower birth rates will mean fewer high school graduates entering college in coming years, meaning “it’s not going to get any better for the next couple of years.”

Enrollment across the University System fell by 1.8% last fall, the second straight year of decline.

ExploreGeorgia college enrollment drops for second straight year

State funding to the University System is based on a funding formula developed in the 1980s that largely relies on enrollment. Historically, the state picked up about 75% of the cost of a student’s education, with tuition chipping in the remainder. During the Great Recession, the state’s portion fell, and it currently covers about 57% of the cost.

“Our institutions are doing a great job making do,” Perdue said. Then he added: “You can do more with less for a long time until you do less with less.”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $3.2 billion for the University System, which is actually up more than $24 million from what he’s proposed for this year’s amended budget.

A chunk of next year’s funding is intended to cover growing employee health care costs, plus $87 million is set aside to give full-time university employees a $2,000 cost of living increase. Perdue said the system will spend about $40 million more to provide that same $2,000 bump to 15,500 additional employees that aren’t part of the state’s pay plan.

ExploreHow some Georgia colleges defy trend toward enrollment drops

Perdue urged lawmakers to take a look at inflation-related pressures faced by universities and consider increasing state funding to help cover the rising costs of paying workers and maintaining and operating buildings.

Perdue said some utility bills jumped by 20%-30% since last year. He said the state funding formula provides just over $7 per square foot to keep up campus facilities, though the true maintenance cost is about double that.

He said a $1 per square foot rate increase would generate about $44 million more in state funds.

Legislators to know

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

There’s a new leader at the helm of the state Senate Committee on Higher Education. Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, was appointed to serve as the committee’s new chair.

He takes over after the retirement of Lindsey Tippins.

Hickman said he’s passionate about the subject and eager “to pass meaningful legislation.”

”We will ensure that Georgia students are able to have access to the necessary resources for them to achieve the best education they can, as we work to better college affordability, student financial aid, education grants, and more,” he said in a written statement.

A certified public accountant, Hickman has campaigned as a conservative businessman who wants to get Georgia “back to work.”

He also breeds and races horses and has supported attempts to expand gambling through horse racing.

In the state House, Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, was reappointed as chair of the higher education committee.

Fighting opioid addiction

Kennesaw State University’s nursing school received a nearly $729,000 federal grant to train nursing students on opioid addictions.

Nursing school officials said they’ll use the money to make changes in graduate programs to decrease the stigma of addiction and increase access to interventions.

“We do that by training more nurse practitioners and other master’s-prepared nurses in the treatment, assessment and referrals of those with opioid use disorders,” said assistant professor of nursing Kathy Barnett, in a written statement.

A big birthday

Credit: Courtesy of University of North Georgia

Credit: Courtesy of University of North Georgia

Congratulations are in order to the University of North Georgia, which is marking its sesquicentennial.

The school, founded in 1873 with a residential campus in Dahlonega, has been celebrating for months and has dozens more events planned. A full list of activities can be viewed online.

Fake it ‘til you make it?

Almost two thirds of recently surveyed college students and recent graduates admit they lied on their college applications.

The findings were released by Intelligent.com from a survey of more than 1,600 students and recent grads.

Of the 61% who admitted falsifying parts of their applications, about a third said they told untruths in the essays.

Watch this doc

Want to delve deeper into the sometimes-murky world of college admissions? We’ve got a film recommendation.

The documentary “Accepted” tags along with four students from a private, largely Black and working-class school in Louisiana that became internet-famous for its viral videos of students celebrating their admissions to Ivy League colleges.

You’ve seen the videos. Picture an anxious high school senior sitting in front of a laptop, about to click on an email to see if they were accepted to their dream school. Then an eruption from their classmates, crowded around, when they see the good news.

But the New York Times burst the mystique that surrounded T.M. Landry College Preparatory School when it reported on allegations that the school’s leaders faked transcripts and abused students.

Tune in for a virtual film screening at 7 p.m. Thursday and then stick around for a discussion with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s higher education reporter, Vanessa McCray, and Donna Lowry of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

We’ll chat about the test-cheating scandal that rocked Atlanta Public Schools more than a decade ago and the pressures students face when applying to college.

If you have any higher education tips or thoughts, email reporter Vanessa McCray at vanessa.mccray@ajc.com.