ATLANTA – After posting years of enrollment growth, Georgia’s public universities saw student numbers drop this fall, due to declining undergraduate numbers.
The drop was in line with national trends, after a year in which all 26 institutions in Georgia’s university system challenged declining numbers of students nationwide. The system had recorded increases in enrollments for seven consecutive years, reaching an all-time high last fall.
Students statewide fell 0.2% to 340,638, according to figures released on Monday. This nearly flat total hides a divide in the system, as the larger and more prestigious institutions continue to grow, while more and more smaller schools shrink.
The National Student Clearinghouse reported last week that undergraduate enrollment at all colleges nationwide fell 3.2% from a year ago, while enrollment fell 2.3% in four-year public colleges, compared with a 2.1% drop in Georgia schools. Undergraduate enrollment has fallen the most among sophomores and juniors in Georgia, suggesting more of them may have dropped out amid the stress of the pandemic, overcoming system pressure to keep students on their way to graduation.
But graduate enrollment in Georgia schools rose 7.9%, compared to 2.1% for all public and private universities nationwide. The number of high school students taking dual enrollment courses in Georgia schools has also increased.
Georgia Tech’s enrollment grew by more than 10.3% to nearly 44,000, as the state’s most prestigious public university continued to see more and more students flock to its master’s programs in line. Graduate enrollment on campus has also jumped. Georgia Tech accounted for nearly two-thirds of the increase in graduate enrollment system-wide, and the bump makes it the second-largest university in Georgia.
Georgia Tech has also seen an increase in all of its undergraduate students, a trend that has severely broken with the rest of the system.
Beyond Georgia Tech, the school with the second largest percentage increase is Kennesaw State University, which saw student numbers increase 4.4% to nearly 43,000. Spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said said non-white students made up the majority of enrollment in Kennesaw state for the first time.
The system did not require ACT or SAT test scores for admission last year, which may have allowed some students to move on to more selective schools.
For example, the nine lowest-tier schools of USG institutions – state colleges such as Dalton State or the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick – saw freshman enrollment decline by 6.7% combined this year. fall. Students at Swainsboro-based East Georgia State College fell 16.2%.
Most schools at the top three levels, including the four research institutes, have seen an increase in freshmen. This was motivated by the growing population of the state, which has increased the number of high school graduates. However, the number of senior graduates is likely to drop sharply later in the decade, due to falling birth rates.
More freshmen was not enough to result in an increase in enrollment in schools of the second lowest level. All nine state universities, including Columbus State and Middle Georgia State, saw their enrollments drop 3.7% overall.
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