Fall enrollment at the University of Georgia is coming close to maxing out at about 34,000 students, and an increasing number of high school seniors hoping to become Georgia Bulldogs next year may be out of luck.
As two-thirds of Georgia’s recent high school graduates started college this fall, the university has no room for enrollment growth, UGA President Michael Adams said Monday in an interview with The Times. And the overflow from the state’s flagship university may result in larger classrooms at Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University, he said.
"Thus far, the message we’ve gotten from the (Board of) Regents is that (the University of) Georgia and (Georgia) Tech are going to increasingly become research-based professional and graduate institutions with very selective undergraduate populations," Adams said. "And I think you’re going to see more and more of the four-year applications and applicants in the state going to the Georgia Southerns, the North Georgias and the Gainesville States, for that matter."
Gainesville State President Martha Nesbitt said the college is making changes to accommodate more students who intend on transferring to UGA, North Georgia College and Georgia Tech.
"In some instances, we are appealing to students who don’t get into Georgia as freshman, so we’re not competing with them. But if they come to us and do well, then they do get in as transfers, and we’ve always valued that relationship we’ve had with the university," Nesbitt said.
She also said that with about 9,000 students at the college’s Gainesville and Oconee campuses, which is a 10 percent growth over last year, the Gainesville campus is close to capacity until its forthcoming academic building opens. In contrast, Georgia Gwinnett College, while growing, has many empty seats, Nesbitt said.
While Gainesville State takes on more students, the college is also forming more four-year degree offerings to provide more baccalaureate opportunities for its growing population.
"That’s one of the reasons we will be looking for some additional baccalaureate degrees because although Georgia may offer them and North Georgia may offer them, they’re maxed out in terms of the students they can take into programs, particularly in education," Nesbitt said.
Adams said it has become more difficult for freshman to gain acceptance to the University of Georgia in recent years, which reiterates that the "city of about 50,000" is "at the outer limits of how many we can handle."
He said the university’s enrollment numbers are where administrators want them.
"(Enrollment of) 34,000 or 35,000 is about it, unless we were to make major infrastructure changes in roads and sidewalks and sewage capacity and water," Adams said. "... We’re out of beds. We’re out of places for people to park. We’re even out of seats in the stadium, if you want to talk about something really important. We’re at 97 percent of our sewage capacity allotted to us. We’ve got water problems just like Gainesville and Lake Lanier and Lake Sinclair. So you have to make it all fit together. And right now, it fits and it works."
Despite having already absorbed an $80 million cut in state funds this year, the University of Georgia has increased research programs by 45 percent due in part to outside grants, Adams said.
Yet Adams said he is concerned the university is not in a good fiscal position to maintain the quality of the university’s faculty, which is aging, in a time of drastic cuts to higher education. He said the university has cut 140 faculty members in the past four years.
"Probably 40 percent of them are within 10 years of retirement," he said of professors. "Whether or not you’re going to be able to, within this economic climate, to attract the really top notch people to that profession and to hire given the signals we’re sending right now ... that’s pretty near the top of the list (of my concerns)."