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Summer enrollment drop could indicate problems for colleges

Special to SEGAZINE

A general drop in enrollment this summer foreshadows what’s expected to be a rare decrease in the number of students attending the University System of Georgia this fall.

Fewer students translates to less money for colleges because they will have less tuition revenue. Tuition and fees provide roughly half the cost of teaching students.

Of the system’s 35 colleges, 33 taught fewer students this summer. Leaders blamed the system’s 10 percent decline on the weak economy as well as changes to the federal Pell Grant program and the state’s HOPE scholarship.

A dip also is expected for the fall semester, which has already started on some campuses. About two-thirds of the colleges will see fall enrollment remain flat or decrease slightly, said John Brown, vice chancellor for fiscal affairs. Enrollment had steadily increased over the past decade and has only dropped twice since 1978.

Georgia colleges have relied on the extra tuition revenue from higher enrollments to soften cuts in state funding. Gov. Nathan Deal told colleges to prepare for another $54 million reduction this fiscal year.

The fall decline is predicted to hit two-year colleges such as Georgia Perimeter and Atlanta Metropolitan the hardest because they will be affected the most by new admissions criteria. Students who need too much remedial help in English and math can no longer attend.

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