Georgia’s college students will pay more next year to earn a degree, with those at the prestigious research institutions facing the largest hikes.
Tuition at 27 of the 31 colleges in the University System of Georgia will increase by 2.5 percent under action the State Board of Regents took Tuesday. That is the same increase most students faced last year and one of the smallest in nearly a decade.
But in-state undergraduate tuition bills will be much different for students at the remaining four schools:
- Georgia Tech has the largest increase at 7 percent. Students will pay $4,129 a semester, a $270 bump.
- University of Georgia got a 5 percent jump. Semester charges will grow by $191 to $4,014.
- Georgia State University students will pay 3.5 percent more. Their bills will increase by $132 to $3,900.
- Georgia Regents University also has a 3.5 percent increase with students paying $131 more a semester. Students’ charges depend on whether they are health sciences majors and where they take classes.
This is the second year the regents used different tuition increases for the research institutions. UGA, Georgia State and Georgia Tech used to charge the same tuition and have the same increases.
The higher increases will allow the research colleges to remain competitive nationally while offering strong programs, said John Brown, vice chancellor for financial affairs. UGA and Georgia Tech are ranked among the top 25 public colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
The four colleges remain on par with what other public research colleges charge, such as Purdue University, University of Texas at Austin and Ohio State University. And the 2.5 increase at most schools is on par with the 2.2 percent inflation rate, officials said.
“We have to do something to be able to provide not just a service, but a quality service,” Regent Ken Bernard said.
Students, however, wonder how they will be able to balance paying the higher bills.
Haleigh Hoffman works two jobs as she puts herself through UGA. She’ll be a senior next year and may take out loans to pay her bills.
“It’s so frustrating because it just goes up more and more every year and there is no escaping it,” she said. “I’m just glad I’m almost done. It’s getting harder and harder to pay for it all.”
Hoffman is among the tens of thousands of University System students receiving the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship. The award amount will increase by 3 percent next year so her out-of-pocket expense for tuition will be $737.05 a semester if she takes 15 credit hours. That’s about $100 more than what HOPE recipients at UGA pay now and doesn’t include fees, books and living expenses.
Tuition increases, like pollen, have become an annual spring annoyance. Some years — such as fiscal years 2004, 2008 and 2011 — brought students double-digit hikes. With the new rates approved Tuesday, tuition at UGA and Georgia Tech has jumped by more than 65 percent since fall 2008.
The jumps became more noticeable during the recession when all Georgia agencies suffered through budget cuts because of declining state revenue. The University System relied on tuition increases to soften the blow.
Before the recession, state funding covered nearly 75 percent of college costs, with 25 percent coming from tuition. Now it’s a 50-50 split, Brown said.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby said tuition increases were minimized by increased funding from the state. The fiscal year 2014 budget, which starts July 1, includes $63 million in new money to support enrollment growth and other costs. The system’s total state funding is about $1.88 billion.
But that money doesn’t cover everything, particularly with rising health and retirement costs, Brown said.
Also the system has absorbed about $1.4 billion in reductions during the recession and can’t afford to cut much more, he said. Colleges have relied more on part-time professors, increased class sizes and eliminated course sections to absorb the reductions.
The system doesn’t want to price “higher ed out of reach,” he said. Students will pay $32 to $270 more a semester next year, depending on the college.
“We are being frugal here,” Brown said.
Eran Mordel, president of the Georgia Tech undergraduate student government association, said students won’t be surprised by the increase. They want to make sure Tech can afford to maintain and enhance quality programs, he said.
“The issue is where is the money going,” Mordel said, adding students want more faculty. “We don’t always know how this money will be spent.”