Record numbers of students continue to enroll in Georgia’s public colleges and universities even as the university system faces steep budget cuts and has upped costs.
The system’s 35 institutions reported 301,892 students taking classes this fall — about a 7 percent jump over last year’s then-record of 282,978, according to a report released Wednesday by Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. And it’s not just one or two schools: 34 of the 35 reported record-high enrollment. Enrollment at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton declined slightly.
“We essentially have created an additional Georgia Southern this fall,” Davis said of the number of students motivated by what he said were two related factors: an increasing number of careers requiring college-level skill sets, and “an uncertain economy.”
The largest increases happened at state colleges and two-year community colleges, which system officials often refer to as “access” institutions because their programs typically reflect community workplace needs.
The system also saw double-digit increases in the enrollment of students of color. Latino enrollment jumped 29 percent over last year, to 12,734 students. Black student enrollment rose by almost 15 percent, to 79,976 students. Black students now represent more than a quarter of all students enrolled in the state’s public colleges and universities.
The system’s governing Board of Regents on Tuesday doubled a special mandatory fee it began charging students last year in the face of state budget cuts, which as of early next year are expected to deepen to $176 million this fiscal year alone. Discussions about tuition are expected to start next spring. Still, Davis said the system added more than 40,000 students in the last three years, well on its way toward a strategic goal to serve an additional 100,000 students by 2020.
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