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Monday May 4th, 2015 10:05AM

Enrollment drop is latest challenge for colleges

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - Another round of state budget cuts coupled with declining enrollment will make it more difficult for colleges to cut spending without harming students, Georgia education officials say.

Members of the state Board of Regents were told on Tuesday that the state's higher education system is experiencing a rare enrollment declin.

That means many colleges -- particularly two-year schools -- will immediately have less money because they'll receive less tuition revenue, said John Brown, the regents' vice chancellor for fiscal affairs.

Earlier, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered $108 million in proposed cuts from the University System of Georgia. That translates to a $54 million reduction for this fiscal year and an additional $54 million for next year.

On Tuesday, Brown stressed the seriousness of the situation to the regents.

"I can't emphasize enough... please listen to what I have to say," said Brown, former director of the House Budget Office.

"I can be Chicken Little-like in my budget days gone by and sky is falling gloom and doom and all of that, but what I'm going to tell you is what I believe to be the case and how we need to respond going forward."

The system is working with colleges on what they will cut and decisions are expected in coming weeks. Colleges were told to minimize impact on students and avoid one-time reductions such as furloughs.

The regents will receive campus-by-campus cuts at the October meeting, Brown said.

Further exacerbating the situation is an enrollment slow-down, officials said.

Enrollment has only dropped twice since 1978, but preliminary figures show about two-thirds of the system's 35 colleges will see enrollment remain flat or decrease slightly, Brown said.

Meanwhile, the University of Georgia reported Wednesday it is expecting approximately 6,400 new students this fall, including 4,970 freshmen and almost 1,400 transfer students. The number of applications received for this year's freshman class - nearly 19,000 - is the highest recorded at UGA for a new class, following several years of record applications.
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