This remarkable fact emerged from checking the details of the University System of Georgia’s fall 2013 report, which showed enrollment declined by nearly 4,900 students from the 2012 fall figures. Enrollment dropped about 1.6 percent to 309,500 students from 314,365 last year. It’s the second year of decline after enrollment hit a record 318,027 students in 2011, an increase of 6,585 students, or 2.1 percent.
Eighteen of the 31 institutions in the system had declines, the biggest at Southern Georgia State College, down 15.7 percent to 2,579, Fort Valley State University, down 10.9 percent to 3,180, Georgia Perimeter College, down 10.6 percent to 21,123.
In contrast, Southern Polytechnic’s enrollment increased from 6,202 to 6,549, a gain of 347 students, or 5.6 percent. That was the best among 13 institutions with increased enrollment. Next was Atlanta Metropolitan State College, up 5.1 percent to 3,016, and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, up 5 percent to 3,394. The gainers included Kennesaw State which enrolled 25 more students for a total of 24,629 this fall.
Digging deeper into the trends in the university system, there’s more to it than declining enrollment. There was actually a drop of 232,423 credit hours in the fiscal year from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, or a 2.7 percent slide, according to budget figures presented to the regents in September, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.
That decline is costing the university system about $20.2 million in “formula funding.”
Several factors figure into the enrollment downtrend, starting with the cutback in the HOPE scholarship that now pays for less than 90 percent of tuition and no books or fees. And, most significantly, HOPE does not cover remedial courses – and about half the credit hour decline was in remedial credit hours.
Another factor: It’s harder for lower-income students to keep federal Pell Grants as the result of tougher requirements for academic progress, plus a shortened eligibility period from 18 semesters to 12. And more than two years ago, the regents put in place higher admissions requirements that made students needing remedial English, math and reading ineligible for admission.
On top of the effect on the university system funding, there’s the additional $20.6 million in health insurance costs that will have to be paid to meet requirements of the “Affordable Care Act,” known as Obamacare.
So the regents are “consolidating” universities and maybe you could say that Southern Poly happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — close to Kennesaw State during a time of falling enrollment and related funding problems for the university system.
Questions to be answered when the merger is completed in 2015: what will be the enrollment in the KSU successor programs to Southern Poly? Will SPSU students vote with their feet after their school essentially disappears?