Another round of state budget cuts coupled with declining enrollment will make it more difficult for colleges to cut spending without harming students, Georgia education officials say.
But local schools are projecting a small increase in enrollment — about 2 to 3 percent more than last year.
According to Kate Maine, North Georgia College & State University’s spokeswoman, the school is projecting a 3 percent increase from last fall’s enrollment of 6,067 students.
“North Georgia College & State University has had steady enrollment growth for many years, and we anticipate that it will continue at a modest rate,” Maine said. “The university’s enrollment since fall 2001 has nearly doubled, from 3,863 to 6,067, this past fall.”
Gainesville State College is also projecting a 2 to 3 percent jump in enrollment, but those numbers are based on previous years’ trends.
“According to the figures, as I understand it, we’re looking at a 2 to 3 percent increase from last fall,” said Sloan Jones, spokeswoman for Gainesville State. “That’s all preliminary, however. Nothing will be set in stone until we’re a couple weeks into the semester.”
Gainesville State’s enrollment last year was around 8,500 students.
Members of the Board of Regents were told last Tuesday that the state’s higher education system is experiencing a rare enrollment decline, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
That means many colleges — particularly two-year schools — will immediately have less money because they’ll receive less in tuition revenue, said John Brown, the regents’ vice chancellor for fiscal affairs.
Earlier, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered $108 million in proposed cuts from the University System of Georgia. That
translates to a $54 million reduction for this fiscal year and an additional $54 million for next year.
Jones said during the meeting Brown presented a 3 percent cut to each of the state’s institutions.
Last Tuesday, Brown stressed the seriousness of the situation to the regents.
“I can’t emphasize enough ... please listen to what I have to say,” said Brown, former director of the House Budget Office.
“I can be Chicken Little-like in my budget days gone by and sky is falling gloom and doom and all of that, but what I’m going to tell you is what I believe to be the case and how we need to respond going forward.”
The system is working with colleges on what they will cut and decisions are expected in coming weeks. Colleges were told to minimize impact on students and avoid one-time reductions such as furloughs.
The regents will receive campus-by-campus cuts at the October meeting, Brown said.
Further exacerbating the situation is an enrollment slowdown, officials said.
Enrollment has only dropped twice since 1978, but preliminary figures show about two-thirds of the system’s 35 colleges will see enrollment remain flat or decrease slightly, Brown said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.