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Report Projects Up to 70,000 More University System Students In Atlanta Metro Area By 2020

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Atlanta — March 19, 2008

A report on increasing access in metro Atlanta, prepared for the Board of Regents by University System of Georgia (USG) staff, found that if current college-going patterns continue into 2020, then the majority of the projected growth of an additional 100,000 new students for the University System would be in the greater Atlanta area.

The Atlanta region is home to 17 of the USG’s 35 colleges and universities and could be serving an additional 70,000 students if they maintain their current share of total USG enrollment of 270,000. The report indicates that as the Atlanta region continues to grow, some areas could be underserved with public higher education programs and facilities, unless System officials act. The challenge the regents and University System officials face is to develop solutions to absorb this growth in a cost-effective way while maintaining high academic standards and directing students to System campuses outside metro Atlanta as well as potential new educational sites in the region, said Chief Operating Officer Rob Watts in a presentation today of the report to the regents. The regents’ Strategic Plan has as one of its goals to create additional enrollment capacity.

“Last fall 27 percent of USG students attended a two-year or state college,” said Watts. “Our goal is to increase that to 32 percent over five years.” Watts informed the regents that increasing the number of students who begin college on a two-year or state college campus is one important part of the overall strategy to deal with enrollment growth. He noted that providing access to the USG for these additional students is complicated by cost, land and transportation constraints.

An analysis of enrollment patterns shows a strong correlation between the geographic location of system campuses and metro-Atlanta high schools. “Our data indicate that proximity to a USG campus is important for a high-school graduate,” Watts said. “Given traffic trends, proximity may become much more important in the future. Drive time is more important than distance in some areas.”

The report suggests that priorities for providing access to the USG in the Atlanta region should initially focus on two-year and state colleges, establishing small pilot sites in low-cost lease spaces following a multi-campus model, as well as exploring partnerships with senior institutions. Initial priorities for location should focus on areas west, south and north of Atlanta and Atlanta’s urban core. “Given the expected enrollment increase, all institutions in the metro area must be part of a system solution to a state need,” stated Watts.

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