Georgia public college students to pay higher tuition

Georgia’s 320,000 public college students must pay more to attend school this fall.

The state’s Board of Regents voted Tuesday to raise tuition by 2 percent at 28 state colleges and universities including its flagship school, the University of Georgia, and its largest institutions such as Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. Eight schools received approval to increase their graduate school tuition, mostly by about 2 percent.

The board voted last yearto freeze tuition rates after state lawmakers questioned the years of tuition hikes in the University System of Georgia.

USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley pointed out that the average tuition increase has been 2.2 percent over the past five years. Wrigley said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some expenses increased, so “some slight increase in revenue is important.”

“We still remain a good bargain,” Wrigley said.

Wrigley also announced a plan Tuesday to review all non-faculty related administrative costs throughout the system, which officials hope will reduce student costs.

The tuition increase will range from $27 to $98 a semester for full-time, in-state undergraduate students, USG officials said.

A December state auditfound the average annual on-campus cost of attending a University System of Georgia school increased from $8,361 to $14,791, a 77 percent increase, during a recent 10-year stretch. The bulk of the costs were for housing and dining, according to the audit.

State funding for those schools, though, hasn’t kept pace, the audit found. Funding per student declined from $8,312 to $7,024 during the same time period, the audit found. Research by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association has found similar results, with Georgia’s decline about average nationally since the Great Recession.

USG officials noted their schools’ average tuition, about $7,100 a year, is the sixth lowest among the 16 states in the Southern Regional Education Board.

Some students may not take comfort in such rankings.

At the College of Coastal Georgia, a growing campus with about 3,500 students where Tuesday’s meeting took place, many students are working part-time jobs and taking out loans to pay for school, said Foster Hayes, a junior who is the student government association president. Hayes works about 20 hours a week as an assistant in the college’s admissions office.

Caitlin Shearer, a business administration major at the school, had mixed feelings about the increase.

“As a student, you never want to see an increase, but if it’s going to help the colleges statewide, it might be necessary,” said Shearer, 26.

Akiem Gordon, a junior studying accounting, said the 2 percent increase did not seem steep.

“I don’t see a problem,” said Gordon, who estimated his tuition is about $2,500 a semester. “It’s an affordable school.”

The board has tried steps to reduce student fees and other costs in recent years, such as an ongoing plan to phase out mandatory meal plans for commuter students. About one in five USG students live on campus, officials said Tuesday.

Student fees will stay the same at most schools, rise at some — the largest increase is $25 — and decrease at three, including UGA and Kennesaw State.

Athletic fees will remain the same at 25 of the 28 schools. Students at six USG institutions contributed almost $213 million in athletic fees to sports programs over a recent five-year stretch, according to data the schools provided to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kennesaw State and the University of North Georgia will decrease the cost of online tuition on average by 6 percent, while online tuition at the remaining schools will remain the same for the 2017-2018 academic year. KSU is also eliminating its mandatory commuter meal plans this fall.

“It’s the right thing to do,” KSU President Sam Olens said of the online and other fee reductions.

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