How declining enrollment could affect UNG’s budget going forward
The number of students pursuing an associate degree fell by more than a third over the same period, from 6,458 to 4,057
Chaudron Gille, provost and vice president for academic affairs, blamed the coronavirus pandemic and a strong job market for the decline.
“A lot of students who would traditionally pursue an associate’s degree can also work,” she said. “A lot of them are non-traditional students and first generation students. And right now the job market is so strong… some of them are making the decision to retire and work for a while because they can make a lot of money.
Undergraduate and graduate enrolments, on the other hand, have increased. Bachelor’s enrollment increased by 12%, from 12,578 to 14,098, and graduate enrollment increased by almost 17%, from 712 to 830.
But the overall drop in enrollment may mean less money in the long run for universities like UNG.
“We don’t have a reduction in our formula this year due to declining enrollment,” she said. “But like the majority of institutions, I believe that 20 of the 26 institutions in the Georgia University System have seen enrollment decline due to COVID. And so these enrollment declines will affect (fiscal year) 24.”
How will they affect the budget? A projection of $12 million over the next few years, she said.
But Gille added that the bulk of the UNG’s budget cuts are due to cuts instituted by Governor Brian Kemp in 2019, which saw USG funding cut by 10%. She said they’ve postponed those cuts so far using federal coronavirus relief money, but will eventually have to make the cuts permanent if the budget isn’t restored. She noted that Kemp has restored funds for K-12 schools but not for universities, though she remains optimistic.
“Maybe in the future here there will be a restoration in the budget cut,” she said. “We have to plan for the future based on what we know now. There may be additional support for higher education – if you have 20 out of 26 institutions facing this, there may be something else coming up in the future that will help address this issue, so I can not know it.
She said they weren’t cutting programs or laying off employees.
“We’re not talking about the kind of draconian cuts you might hear about at other establishments across the country,” she said. “We are not eliminating any position necessary to fulfill our teaching mission.”
“UNG is very stable, very strong,” she said, adding that they’ve made up for some of the cuts with grants, fundraising and industry partnerships.
She said UNG has cut travel, operations and renovation budgets. In practice, this may mean holding meetings virtually or delaying IT upgrades. Additionally, they may choose not to fill vacancies if demand for a college program is low.
“If I have four faculty members retiring, I could replace two right now if there’s no demand for the courses,” she said. When asked if it could increase the workload of the teachers who had to take over, she said no. “If the demand for the courses is there, I will fill the position.”