Six smaller Georgia colleges saw student enrollment decline by more than 20% – Natural Self Esteem

Most of these schools are state colleges focused on offering two-year associate degrees outside of the Atlanta metro area. They receive less government funding from a funding formula that is largely based on enrollment.

Schecter, who had met with state lawmakers a day earlier, told workers if the college could increase enrollments: “I think there’s going to be a little bit more help coming our way from the state.”

But, he continued, “If we can’t make that argument in a year or two, I think that’s more problematic.”

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East Georgia State College President David Schecter works at his desk on campus. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

East Georgia State College President David Schecter works at his desk on campus.  (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Caption arrowcaption

East Georgia State College President David Schecter works at his desk on campus. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

rural challenges

Schecter attributes much of the decline at his school to slow population growth in Emanuel County and the surrounding areas. Federal data shows that the county’s population has increased by less than 1% over the past decade. During the same period, the population of Georgia increased by almost 11%.

throughout Georgia, The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated enrollment challenges, educators say.

Georgia Gwinnett College had nearly 13,000 students in the year before the pandemic, its highest ever, said Michael Poll, its vice president for enrollment management.

“We flew high,” he said.

Enrollment there has since fallen by nearly 2,000 students, state data shows.

Recruiters were initially unable to attend some secondary schools after moving to distance learning. High school students had less access to advisors to guide them through the college application process. Many Georgia students have not completed the detailed federal grant application form.

“Many of the students were on their own,” Poll said.

And since the pandemic, more young people have entered the labor market to support their families, research shows. Young people who work full-time jobs more than a year after high school are less likely to attend college, noted Matt Smith, senior policy analyst for the nonprofit Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

“The financial hurdles have become overwhelming for many low-income students,” said Dana Rickman, president of the partnership.

East Georgia State students say the main campus had many more students before the pandemic. The atmosphere now, they say, is not the same.

“The school is designed for a large number of students,” said Ayana Robinson, 20, of Atlanta. “It’s designed to bring a lot of people together. It’s just that COVID prevented it.”

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East Georgia State College students walk through the campus student center during lunch on March 28, 2022 in Swainsboro, Georgia. The campus is nearly empty. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

East Georgia State College students walk through the campus student center during lunch on March 28, 2022 in Swainsboro, Georgia. The campus is nearly empty.  (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Caption arrowcaption

East Georgia State College students walk through the campus student center during lunch on March 28, 2022 in Swainsboro, Georgia. The campus is nearly empty. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

recruitment efforts

The leaders of the university system have made some adjustments to simplify the college application process, such as: B. Decisions to waive the ACT or SAT as part of the admissions requirements at most of their schools. But the adjustments have led to unintended consequences for the smaller schools, educators say. Many students who may have enrolled at an eastern Georgia state have instead chosen a larger school such as Georgia Southern University.

Smith proposed that the university system create a public online curriculum for all of its schools. Georgia Tech’s enrollment has grown nearly 50% over the past five years as it added more online courses aimed at professionals.

“Institutions need to be more proactive to say, ‘Okay, we need to find ways to recruit these people to bring them back or register them for the first time,'” Smith said.

Georgia Gwinnett College has expanded sessions at some local high schools where the college has offered on-site admissions to qualified students.

East Georgia state administration officials say they are considering ideas such as more online courses. The school’s main campus, midway between Augusta and Savannah, has the appearance of a resort with its 18-hole disc golf course set amidst towering pine trees. Recruiters sell students in its calm atmosphere. They also note that it has the lowest tuition in the state system at $1,425 per semester.

Above all, they say, it’s a place that can prepare young people who haven’t been the best high school students for a four-year university.

Liberal arts student Aaron Penn said he never got an A at his Fulton County high school. Here, Penn says, he gets more attention from professors like Antré Drummer, who has become a mentor, and that pays off in the classroom. Penn recalled happily entering Drummer’s office after getting an A in a class.

“It’s a school for diamonds in the rough,” said Penn, 21, an aspiring film producer.

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Antré Drummer, a professor at East Georgia State College, laughs with student Aaron Penn. The drummer is a mentor to Penn, 21, an aspiring film producer. College administrators say such relationships are important in helping students thrive at the small school. (Eric Stirgus / Eric.Stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

Antré Drummer, a professor at East Georgia State College, laughs with student Aaron Penn.  The drummer is a mentor to Penn, 21, an aspiring film producer.  College administrators say such relationships are important in helping students thrive at the small school.  (Eric Stirgus / Eric.Stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

Caption arrowcaption

Antré Drummer, a professor at East Georgia State College, laughs with student Aaron Penn. The drummer is a mentor to Penn, 21, an aspiring film producer. College administrators say such relationships are important in helping students thrive at the small school. (Eric Stirgus / Eric.Stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

Credit: Eric Stirgus

LaFredrick Gilchrist, 19, a freshman from Augusta, said he keeps getting emails from faculty reviewing him. Robinson recalled one message saying, “You’re really good at your classes. Keep pressing.”

The school’s retention rate is approximately 50%, slightly below the system-wide average for students pursuing an associate degree. The college offers tutoring on a daily basis.

East Georgia State workers are now recruiting more in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah. Schecter, who is making some recruiting trips, sees signs of hope. Fall applications are up 43%, he said.

Georgia’s university system consolidated several mostly smaller colleges about a decade ago to cut costs. Kathy Knutzen, who came out of retirement to help Schecter, noted that research has concluded some US colleges will close in the coming years if the enrollment decline continues.

“We won’t be on that list,” she said.

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