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With enrollment growth comes hiring increases
Tuition and fee increases can help fill void
Gainesville State College student employee Graham Law helps fellow student Noelle Fuller return a book to the campus bookstore. - photo by Tom Reed

Since 2007, the University System of Georgia has added more than 5,000 jobs while the rest of the state government eliminated 10,000.

Some schools have increased their staff by 45 percent.

But as school enrollment continues to grow, officials say their staffs must, too.

“Student enrollment has continued to grow,” said Randy Pierce, interim president at Gainesville State College. “As a result of that, you still have to have faculty and staff to be able to accommodate that enrollment growth.”

Over the last five years, Gainesville State has increased its faculty and staff by 24 percent and currently employs 806 full and part-time employees.

Over the same time period, enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 students, sitting at more than 8,500.

North Georgia College & State University has seen similar growth — both in students and employees.

Since 2001, enrollment at North Georgia has increased 57 percent and full-time faculty and staff has increased 42 percent.

From 2008 to fall 2011, North Georgia saw an increase of 10 percent in enrollment, coupled with an increase of 7 percent in full-time faculty and staff.

“We have been trying to keep up with the needs of our campus and our student enrollment, but (hiring) hasn’t been keeping pace with our enrollment,” said Kate Maine, spokeswoman for North Georgia.

But even amidst enrollment and employment growth, the university system has continued to cut the budget.

During the “Great Recession,” the state has cut nearly $300 million out of the system’s budget.

So schools have to find ways to keep up with the growing student population.

Both Gainesville State and North Georgia maintain small, intimate classes, which, officials say, is their priority, but can be fiscally challenging.

Sometimes tuition and fee increases are used to help fill that void.

“We believe if we let students come here, then we have to have the support services — those student success services — that will help them be successful,” said Pierce. “It’s terribly labor-intensive, and most of the costs are embedded in faculty and staff positions.

“Since you’re labor-intensive, you’ve got to find a way to support enrollment increases. So, it does go, to some extent, to tuition increases and fee increases.”

The system’s board of regents sets the tuition rates.

“Tuition and fees (help cover costs) because, at this point, we don’t get as much in state funding as we did a few years ago,” said Maine.

Maine said public fundraising campaigns, such as the one North Georgia just completed, raising more than $40 million, help offset those costs as well.

“It is a challenge,” she said. “We’re a growing institution, and we’re having to do more with very limited resources.”

Systemwide, enrollment has increased 17.7 percent in the past five years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.