ALBANY — The number is not a large one — a loss of 249 students — but Albany State University President Marion Fedrick said Thursday the loss of every single student is hard for her to take.
During a fall semester that saw the 26 colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia grow by a cumulative 1.5%, Albany State, and all but two other colleges in south Georgia, fell off on enrollment for the fall semester of 2019, according to a report released Wednesday by the university system.
ASU’s current enrollment of 6,122 students is a 3.9% decline from its 2018 enrollment of 6,371.
“There are two big problems we have at Albany State,” Fedrick said. “One is housing and the other is financial aid. Those are challenges we face, and while we’re working to resolve them, they remain significant challenges for us.”
The ASU president said hundreds of students were placed on a housing waiting list prior to the start of fall semester, when a class of 2,341 first-year students registered. And while some of the students decided to wait a semester before enrolling at ASU, many enrolled at their next institution of choice.
“We tried to find suitable (housing) options in the community for all of the students who wanted to attend Albany State, but the reality is that most students — and particularly most students’ parents — want their freshmen on campus or as near to campus as possible,” Fedrick said. “Some said they’d wait until spring to start classes in hopes that they’d be able to get on-campus housing. We reached out to 600 of those students (on the housing waiting list), but that’s always going to be a problem for us.
“We just aren’t building buildings right now.”
Fedrick said a private apartment complex located adjacent to the ASU campus on Radium Springs Road could help with fall 2020 enrollment, if the complex is completed.
“They’re talking about 240 beds at that complex, so, yes, it could help,” the ASU president said. “And I understand that there are two or three other developers talking about apartment complexes that target students.
“We do everything we can to accommodate all of our potential students; we even have an apartment fair to show students all the options in the community. But the college experience is pretty much focused on being on the campus.”
Fedrick said that, for a number of reasons, a large number of students did not complete their financial aid paperwork on time to qualify for fall enrollment.
“I’m not going to point fingers at anyone, but for several reasons students did not get their financial aid paperwork completed, or it didn’t get processed on time,” she said. “That’s another big challenge for us, one we’re working to resolve.”
Middle Georgia State University in Macon saw the largest increase in student population outside the metro Atlanta area with an uptick of 3.4 %. Georgia Southwestern in Americus increased its enrollment by 1.5 % (see separate story above) and Valdosta State by 0.5 % to 11,211 students.
Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University saw the largest student uptick in the University System with increases of 11.5 % and 6.7 %, respectively. Other institutions showing enrollment increases were Augusta University (2.2%), Georgia State University (1.5%), the University of Georgia (an increase of 0.7% to 38,652 students), Georgia College and State University (0.6%), the University of North Georgia (0.1%), and Georgia Gwinnett College (2.6%).
Savannah State University and ABAC in Tifton had the largest decreases in student enrollment outside metro Atlanta, with drops of 9.5 % and 8.5 %, respectively. Atlanta Metropolitan State College saw its enrollment fall by a staggering 15.7 %, to 1,844 students.
Georgia Southern’s enrollment dropped slightly, to 26,054, while Georgia State University’s increase took it to 53,619 students, the largest in the state.
Columbus State’s enrollment of 7,877 was down 2.5 %, Fort Valley State’s 2,624 down 5.5 %, Savannah State’s enrollment falling to 3,688, while South Georgia State College in Douglas fell 5.5 % to 2,346 students.
Fedrick noted that, “While raw numbers are important, we are also focused at Albany State on retention, on our students graduating.” The university’s 2019 student population includes 2,341 freshmen, almost as many as the other three classes combined.