Tuesday, April 7, 2009

University System of Georgia Spring Enrollment Jumps 5.8 Percent Over Last Year

Spring 2009 semester enrollment in the 35 colleges and universities of the University System of Georgia (USG) jumped 5.8 percent over spring 2008, increasing 14,896 students to a total of 272,910 students. These are the overall numbers from the just-released Spring 2009 Semester Enrollment Report by the USG.

The jump follows an increase of 3.2 percent from spring 2007 to spring 2008, and USG officials indicate this is part of an overall trend of rising enrollment in Georgia’s public higher education system. The report also indicates that USG students are taking more courses, as evidenced by an increase in the full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 6.6 percent from spring 2008 to spring 2009. The FTE enrollment is a statistical measurement of how many courses students take in a given semester.

“Traditionally, spring enrollment is well below fall semester, but this spring’s enrollment approached that of fall,” said Cathie Mayes Hudson, vice chancellor for the Office of Research and Policy Analysis, which prepared the report. “And the numbers show students are becoming more serious during these tough economic times about taking heavier course loads.”

Hudson also noted that the jump in spring enrollment, which now stands at 96 percent of fall enrollment, is an indicator of even bigger enrollment increases to come this fall. For example, Georgia State University admissions officers have received a 25 percent increase in applications for this fall over the previous fall.

“There is no question that we are seeing significant increases in enrollment in what is typically the ‘off’ semester,” said USG Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. “This is proof positive of what we have been seeing and hearing anecdotally: more and more Georgians are turning to the University System in these tough times in order to get the education needed to be marketable now and in the future.”

The University System is divided into five sectors: 4 research universities, 2 regional universities, 13 state universities, 8 state colleges and 8 two-year colleges. In line with the Board of Regents strategic goal to direct more students into the state college and two-year college sectors, the largest percentage growth rates for the spring semester were at the two-year colleges (a 10.9 percent increase) and state colleges (a 7.3 percent increase). Among the other sectors, enrollment increased 5.3 percent at the state universities, 4.9 percent at the regional universities, and 3.5 percent at the research universities.

While not every USG institution registered student growth, the majority did. The largest increases were at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville (a 85.5 percent increase to 1,608 students), East Georgia College in Swainsboro (a 25.5 percent increase to 2,501 students), Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley (a 23.1 percent increase to 2,956 students), Bainbridge College in Bainbridge (a 22.3 percent increase to 3,159 students), Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus (a 17.5 percent increase to 2,603 students), Atlanta Metropolitan College (a 16.8 percent increase to 2,299 students), Dalton State College in Dalton (a 12.9 percent increase to 4,815 students), and Savannah State University in Savannah (a 12.4 percent increase to 3,310 students).

Two other USG institutions recorded double digit growth from spring 2008 to spring 2009: Gordon College in Barnesville jumped 10.7 percent to 3,799 students and Georgia Highlands College in Rome grew 10.3 percent to 4,692 students.

Just under the 10 percent growth mark were three institutions: Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta saw a 9.7 percent increase in enrollment to 4,723 students in spring 2009; Gainesville State College in Gainesville posted a 9.2 percent increase from spring 2008 to spring 2009 for a total student enrollment of 7,716, and Georgia Perimeter College, which serves metro Atlanta, increased 9 percent to a total enrollment of 23,315 students in spring 2009.

Georgia State University in Atlanta saw the largest percentage increase in spring enrollment among the four research universities, a 4.7 percent increase to 27,424 students. The next highest percentage increase was at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, with a 3.8 percent increase from spring 2008 to spring 2009 to a current enrollment of 2,854, followed by Georgia Institute of Technology, which posted an increase of 3.6 percent to 18,025 students this spring.

The University of Georgia in Athens saw a 2.5 percent increase, to 32,968 students in spring 2009.

The System’s two large regional universities had increases of 5.3 percent at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, to 16,730 students and 4.3 percent at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, to 11,092 students for the spring 2009 semester.

Drilling down even further into the numbers, the report found that fewer students are enrolling part time. Spring 2009 part-time enrollment was 30.3 percent in spring 2009, compared to 31.4 percent in spring 2008. Hudson said this means more students are pursuing full-time coursework and degree programs, attempting to complete degree requirements more quickly.

Another important indicator of the rising demand for public higher education is first-time freshman enrollment, which increased by 14.9 percent (from 7,975 students in spring 2008 to 9,161 students in spring 2009). This represents a growing trend in enrolling first-time freshmen in spring, as well as in fall and summer, Hudson said.

Minority enrollment continues to show gains. Hispanic enrollment jumped by 13.0 percent, to 9,519 students from spring 2008 to spring 2009. African-American enrollment increased from spring 2008 to spring 2009 by 8.7 percent, to a total of 68,867 students. And Asian enrollment increased by 5.9 percent from spring 2008 to spring 2009, to a total student body of 16,941.

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