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University System Records Gain of 14,000 Students From Fall 2002 to Fall 2003

Atlanta — November 19, 2003

If the University System of Georgia was selling a product, Wall Street analysts would be shouting “buy, buy, buy” on news released today by System officials that the Fall 2003 semester enrollment at the 34 public institutions hit an all-time record high of 247,020 students.

Today’s report continues a three-year upward trend, as 14,000 new students swelled the ranks of those already enrolled. That is almost like adding another Georgia Southern University to the System.

This dramatic increase comes on the heels of a 7.1% increase from fall 2001 to fall 2002. Overall, the University System of Georgia’s enrollment has increased by 20 percent – a full one-fifth - since the fall 2000 semester. The number of first-time freshmen increased by 6.7 percent to 37,036 students. This is the largest freshman enrollment in a decade.

All of the University System’s record enrollment increases suggest that comprehensive efforts toward “Creating a More Educated Georgia” are paying notable dividends in providing increased access to higher education.

However, despite the increases, the University System’s allocation from the state reflects the lowest percentage of the overall state budget since 1967 – 19 years before the average fall 2003 freshman was born. In the face of looming budget cuts, today’s announcement reflects the increasing demand for education faced by the University System of Georgia.

“We were anticipating that our final numbers would reflect yet another record for student enrollment in the University System of Georgia,” said Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith, “and we more than met our projections. The demand on the System continues to increase each year, as Georgians respond to our message about the need for increasing educational attainment. It is clear that appreciation for the value of higher education is on the rise in Georgia.” As important as the overall enrollment increase is the fact that all sectors of the University System grew, with headcount enrollment increasing by:

  • 2.2 percent at the System’s four research universities
  • 5.1 percent in the System’s two regional universities
  • 7.3 percent in the 13 state universities
  • 5.2 percent in the two state colleges

Of particular note, enrollment in the System’s 13 two-year colleges rose by 10.9 percent over fall 2002. In addition to this increase, data show that during the three years from fall 2000 to fall 2003, two-year college enrollment skyrocketed by more than one-third – or 36.1 percent.

The University System’s burgeoning enrollment also is accompanied by increases in the SAT score of incoming freshmen. In a separate report, the University System’s Office of Strategic Research and Analysis, an upward trend in System-wide SAT scores continued.

The average composite SAT score – a combination of verbal and math scores - for first-time freshmen rose to 1,036 this fall, a six-point increase over last year’s average score of 1,030. The average was 1,026 in 2001 and 1,021 in 2000. Overall, the average composite SAT score for University System freshmen shows a 15 point increase over this three-year period. In 2002, the average math score was 516, while the average verbal score was 514. For the fall 2003 semester, the average for both math and verbal is 518.

Georgia Tech enjoys the highest average SAT score, at 1,325, followed by the University of Georgia at 1,209. Overall, a total of 12 University System of Georgia institutions reported average composite SAT scores of over 1,000, including: Armstrong Atlantic State University, Clayton College & State University, Georgia College & State University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, North Georgia College & State University, Southern Polytechnic State University, State University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University.

“The increase in SAT scores reflects the University System’s on-going commitment to raising standards,” noted Chancellor Meredith. “Our campuses are continuing to attract Georgia’s best and brightest students even as we raise the bar of expectations for academic performance. It is undeniable; our partnerships and our policies are yielding dividends.”

Further exploration of the enrollment data shows that more than two-thirds, or 66.5%, of all University System students are enrolled full-time. Full-time enrollment varies by institution type, with the lowest numbers at two-year institutions and the highest – up to 92.6% – at the Medical College of Georgia. Perhaps reflecting the economic burden faced by many college students, 10 University System institutions recorded more than 50% part-time enrollment.

Also significant, African-American enrollment in the University System increased by 7.9 percent from fall 2002 to fall 2003, for a total of 57,098 students. Overall, African-American students represent 23.1 percent of the total USG enrollment this fall, an increase of 22.7% from last year. Looking at gender, however, only 31.9 percent of African-American students in System institutions are males, which means that two-thirds of African-American students are females – an even greater disproportion than in 2002. Through its African-American Male Initiative (AAMI), University System officials are committed to raising the aspirations of this particular population and educational attainment levels in the state.

In terms of gender, the percentage of female students increased by 6.9 percent from fall 2002 to fall 2003 – continuing to reflect a national trend in higher education. Females now account for 58.6 percent of all University System students. In addition, the 6.9 headcount percentage increase for females outpaced the 4.7 percent increase for males.

The number of non-traditional undergraduates – loosely defined as those over 25 years of age at first matriculation – increased by 9.2% from fall 2002 to fall 2003. The University System of Georgia has made increasing non-traditional enrollment a key element in its strategic plan. Today’s report suggests that these efforts are beginning to produce measurable results.

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