Enrollment rebounds in 2023 after 2-year dip at Georgia public universities and colleges

In this March 11, 2016, file photo, a pedestrian walks through the Georgia Tech campus as the downtown Atlanta skyline looms in the background. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The number of students rose at Georgia’s public universities and colleges this fall after a two-year dip, with all but three of the system’s 26 schools adding students.

Enrollment rose 2.9% statewide from fall 2022. That increase of nearly 10,000 students set a new record of more than 344,000 students statewide, surpassing the previous high of 341,000 in fall 2020.

After a steeper decline in enrollment than the nation as a whole last year, University System of Georgia schools outstripped the nationwide rise of 2.1% this fall recorded by the National Student Clearinghouse.

The turnaround is especially welcome at many of the system’s smaller institutions, which bled students fast during the pandemic. The system distributes much of its funding based on enrollment. That means those schools — which typically don’t have big private donors or research contracts to cushion them — have been facing budget cuts.

“This is happening as we focus on aligning degrees to the state’s workforce needs, from nursing and teaching to logistics and cybersecurity,”

University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said in a statement, adding that schools “make a transformational difference in students’ lives.”

The institution which saw the largest percentage increase was Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, where student enrollment rose 11%.

Dalton State College, Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Georgia Gwinnett College saw increases of more than 8%. They and six other state colleges saw student enrollment rise 4.2% as a group. Many students at those schools seek two-year degrees.

Georgia Tech added the largest number of students. Its growth by 2,600 students brings its enrollment to nearly 48,000. Master’s degrees, typically offered online, continue to fuel the growth of the Atlanta research powerhouse.

The only schools seeing dips were Georgia State University in Atlanta, Valdosta State University and East Georgia State College in Swainsboro.

Georgia State remained the system’s largest, with more than 50,000 students, despite a 6% decrease.

Overall, 18 of 26 schools haven’t made up all the ground they lost since fall 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Without Georgia Tech’s 11,000-student increase since 2019, the system’s overall enrollment would be lower than pre-pandemic levels. Enrollment has fallen 35% at East Georgia State since 2019.

With unemployment low, some people have chosen to work rather than study. And the number of graduating high school seniors in Georgia is likely to fall for years beginning later in the decade, because of a decline in birthrates.

Enrollment rose in all four undergraduate years, among graduate students, and among younger students who are dual-enrolled in high school and college courses.

The share of white students continues to decrease statewide, falling below 44% this year. The share of Hispanic and Asian students rose again, reflecting a diversifying Georgia population. The share of Black students remained level.