Decline in student enrollment

Cara Radosevich, Staff Writer

Due to lower enrollment levels, GC is currently facing budget cuts from the University System of Georgia that will affect the 2024 fiscal year.

According to Eric Stirgus from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The system’s total enrollment declined this fall for the first time in eight years. The average enrollment decline for schools with fewer students this fall was between 5% and 6%.”

“The University System of Georgia uses a formula funding approach based on student enrollment to allocate state appropriations among its institutions,” Daniel McDonald, the Interim Director of Public Affairs, said.

According to Dr. Chris Clark, an economics professor, enrollment levels directly impact the amount of budget that GC receives.

“The way funding is distributed at the USG level is dependent on our enrollment,” said Clark.

Dr. J.J. Arias, another economics professor, shared that the fiscal year is from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024 where the cuts will be felt the most.

Arias also stated that the budget cuts are approximated at 6.4 million for the fiscal year 2024 for GC. 

Clark identified several variables that may prevent potential students from applying to college, such as the minimum wage’s rise in Georgia.

However, Clark does not deem this reason as one of the more important variables.

Clark explained that GC is one of the three colleges in the USG system that needs standardized test scores for students to be accepted, which may prevent some students from applying. 

He mentioned the possibility that some students who had to retake the ACT or SAT exam missed the deadline to apply due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Other factors for low enrollment levels include birth rates, which are lower than those of past generations.

“Part of what’s happening is that people are having fewer children,” Dr. Clark said.

Clark explained that the lower birth rate of this generation directly impacted enrollment.

“The percentage of people that are college-aged is lower than it used to be,” Dr. Clark said.

According to Dr. Clark, another reason that fewer people enroll in college is that they are immunocompromised and are concerned about catching COVID-19.

Potential students have also been discouraged from attending college because COVID-19 has greatly altered the college experience. 

Clark added that online classes have dissuaded people from applying to college due to limited social contact, lack of community and the structure of online learning. 

“The University System of Georgia uses a formula funding approach based on student enrollment to allocate state appropriations among its institutions,” McDonald said.

According to McDonald, the recent decline in enrollment means that GC will have fewer dollars from tuition over the next few years. 

“To mitigate these reductions, the university will utilize funding reserves and eliminate some vacant positions,” McDonald said.

Registered student organizations should not be affected by the budget cuts according to McDonald and Clark was not concerned about the budget cuts affecting current GC faculty members.