Georgia Tech president touts research and growth at Rotary

Published 9:52 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

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On Wednesday, the Rotary Club of LaGrange was visited by Georgia Institute of Technology President Ángel Cabrera, who provided an update on how the engineering school is serving all of Georgia.

Cabrera is the 12th president to lead Georgia Tech, having previously served as the president of George Mason University. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Cabrera is the first Spanish-born president of an American University. After earning engineering degrees in Spain, Cabrera earned a master’s and doctorate in psychology and cognitive science from Georgia Tech, which he attended as a Fulbright Scholar.

Cabrera became president of Georgia Tech in September 2019, helping lead and grow the school through the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when many American universities were losing students.

Cabrera noted that while everyone in the room is not a Georgia Tech alumnus, they are all stakeholders.

“At Georgia Tech we only have one shareholder and one owner and that is the citizens of the state of Georgia. That’s everything we do. Every decision that we make is with that and with that in mind,” Cabrera said.

Like Rotary, Cabrera noted that Georgia Tech is grounded in the notion of service, saying the school’s motto is “Progress and Service.”

Cabrera said the last five years have been rough for American higher education, noting that enrollments have been going down for most universities in the U.S. In Georgia, 20 of the 26 universities in the state have been struggling to fill classrooms.

“That’s been the norm around the country,” Cabrera said, noting Georgia Tech has seen the opposite.

Cabrera said in 2019, the year he started at Tech, they had 33,000 applications, a record at the time. He said they thought it was an anomaly but applications kept increasing every year. This year they broke the record again with just shy of 60,000 applications.

“That’s a record not just for Georgia Tech. It’s a record for the state. No other [Georgia] university had ever received that kind of demand,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera noted that because Georgia Tech is a public university, they are increasing enrollment but they just can’t keep up with demand so the school remains one of the most selective universities in the country.

He said when he started their entering class was about 3,000. Now it’s 3,800 and next year will be 4,000. That’s nothing compared to 60,000, noting the increased enrollment cannot keep up with skyrocketing demand.

“The result of this is that Georgia Tech now is the third most selective public university in the country. That was last year’s numbers. It’s possible that we are now even the most selective university in the country, which is quite remarkable,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera also touted the Georgia Tech’s research. The school currently receives about $1.5 billion in research funding, which is more than half of its $2.5 billion overall budget.

“There are only 20-plus universities in the country that bring in over a billion dollars in research. Only one of those do not have a medical school. That school is Georgia Tech,” Cabrera said, noting they surpassed MIT two years ago in research funding.

While Georgia Tech remains more selective than ever, the school also remains one of the most affordable schools in the country, especially for in-state students, Cabrera said. He said tuition has gone down in over the last five years thanks to lawmakers allowing them to remove a fee charged to all students.

“[The fee] was $1,000 a year, so in five years, Georgia Tech tuition for in-state students has actually gone down,” Cabrera said. “We charge about 10 percent less than we used to five years ago. If you consider inflation, it’s actually more like 20 to 25 percent.”

“It is very difficult to get into Georgia Tech. It will continue to be difficult, but what we don’t is for it to be difficult because it’s expensive,” Cabrera said. “We’re working very hard to make sure that the smartest kids from the state — no matter what their background is, no matter what their ability to pay is— we try to make sure that they find their way to Georgia Tech.”