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Why does Georgia Tech take fewer Georgia students than University of Georgia?

I didn't enjoy the college application process with my older kids and don't expect it's going to be any more fun with my twins next year. I claim no expertise in the alchemy of college admissions. I'm often flummoxed by why one student wins admission and an equally gifted peer does not.

Some Georgia parents are experiencing similar confusion in the wake of Georgia Tech's regular admission decisions announced over the weekend. On an earlier blog, Tech reports this year's admitted students had an average SAT of 1445 (out of 1600), with 10 college-level courses completed. Tech applications reached a high of 30,520, a 12 percent increase over last year. One in four applicants was offered admission.

Among the comments from readers:

We have many kids in Georgia who have ACT scores that put them in the one percent range with academic rigor and near perfect GPAs that were deferred, then wait-listed. It does seem Georgia Tech is more concerned with being a Stanford or MIT while forgetting they are a Georgia public college funded in part by Georgia taxpayers. Their own records on their website spell this out. UGA admits around 80 percent Georgia kids while Georgia Tech is at 68 percent. The really sad part is that for most Georgia kids Georgia Tech is their No. 1 choice.

Another parent on the earlier blog commented:

My son was not accepted to Tech this year despite a 4.0-plus GPA, seven college level course (short the three additional I guess). So, while disappointed, he has offers out-of-state with scholarship opportunities that help to equalize the tuition cost. I'd like to see the Regents accelerate their efforts on expanding STEM-related programs at other schools so then there will be more opportunities for all kids to grow within our state.

And a student wait-listed by Tech wrote:

As someone who beat last year's Tech freshman average test scores and GPA, is dual enrolled at Kennesaw State, worked full time as a software engineer last summer, has a decent portfolio of software on my personal website and got wait-listed, I hope these people do not choose Tech.

I shared these concerns and comments with Georgia Tech, along with laments from parents whose teens didn't get into Tech that they could face $100,000 in college bills for their children to attend engineering programs in other states.

Here is the response from Rick Clark, Tech's undergraduate admissions director:

There is no question that each year far more qualified students from around our state, nation, and globe apply to Georgia Tech, and other elite schools, than are able to enroll. Application increases, while diminishing the admit rate, reflect an acknowledgment that our students are receiving an excellent education and are going on to productive and fulfilling careers in Atlanta, around our state, country, and increasingly the world.

As a Tech employee and a citizen of this state, I'm proud we have an institution that truly has a worldwide reputation for excellence, and, more importantly, is bringing the best minds to campus to focus on improving the human condition and solving many of the world's problems.

Georgia Tech utilizes a holistic admission process. This means that unlike many Georgia schools (or what are nationally known as "access schools") who use the Freshman Index, we look well beyond purely quantitative measures. Schools who build and shape classes holistically have far more students scoring in ranges that indicate the ability for academic success on campus. We take great care in the admissions process to ask questions about and seek to learn if student possess the traits that relate to fit, alignment with our mission, leadership, passions and interests, etc. I have written extensively in my blog about this concept over the last few months.

The truth is I could make a case to admit nearly every applicant. But in order to maintain optimum student-faculty ratios, allow for effective labs, and work within physical space limitations, we seek to enroll a freshman class of 2,800, rather than 30,000.

Our undergraduate population is made up of approximately 60 percent Georgia students, 30 percent non-residents, and 10 percent from outside our nation. This year our admit rate for Georgia students was more than 10 percentage points higher than domestic non-residents and 25 percentage points higher than students from outside the US. The dynamics and ethos this demographic provide have proven to enrich discussions inside and outside the classroom and produce graduates who have a global vision and a network that extends far beyond our state or region.

A decision to spend $100,000 for an out-of-state school would be just that -- a decision. I say that for two reasons: First, Tech has a well-established transfer admission process. Last year we enrolled nearly 850 students (70 percent of whom were Georgians) through these pathways, including Regents’ Engineering Transfer Program (RETP) and Dual Degree Engineering Program, which are both articulated programs. This year, in an effort to continue to serve our state, we launched the Arts and Sciences Pathway which is solely for Georgians looking to transfer to Tech. You can learn more on our website.

Second, as a parent of kids in our K12 system, I'm thankful that we have such a robust and diverse University System – not to mention excellent in state private institutions that boast strong financial aid packages. This means that a talented student not offered admission from Georgia Tech can have myriad other options for any major they'd like to pursue. All majors are available in our system.

I know that people love their kids. They want the best for them. And they are merely attempting to advocate on their behalf. But in my experience, when parents focus their energy on moving on to other great options students are typically very excited to embrace those opportunities.

I went back to Tech with a follow-up about current enrollment data showing UGA has 89 percent Georgia residents among its undergraduates while Tech has 60 percent among its undergrad population.

Is there something about 60 percent that does, in fact, as Clark states, "...enrich discussions inside and outside the classroom and produce graduates who have a global vision and a network that extends far beyond our state or region"? I assume UGA would argue it, too, produces grads with a global vision and has enriching discussions on its campus even with nearly 30 percent more Georgians in its mix.

Here's Clark’s response to my question:

The beauty of the University System of Georgia is that there are a wide variety of institutions, each with its own mission. This allows Georgians to have access to the education they need to be successful. The University of Georgia is the state’s flagship university and has four-times the number of majors available than Georgia Tech has.

Our education is largely STEM-focused, and other courses are taught through a technology lens. The challenges our country is facing requires us to be competitive globally in STEM fields. That means Georgia students need to study alongside the best and brightest in the world. We’ve found that for us, this is an appropriate mix to best educate and prepare our students for the future.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.