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College tuition, fee hike reignites HOPE debate | News

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College tuition, fee hike reignites HOPE debate
News, Schools
College tuition, fee hike reignites HOPE debate

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Board of Regents has announced a hike in both tuition and fees for Georgia's state colleges and universities during a meeting Tuesday.

"It's highly likely that tuition will have to increase to meet the needs of the students and to meet the student growth we have experienced," said Regents executive John Millsaps before the meeting.

The tuition hike comes close on the heels of a major overhual of the popular HOPE scholarship program which means students will be left to pay the rising costs of college in the state.

State representative Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who played a major role in revamping the HOPE scholarship, says tough choices had to be made to keep the program afloat financially.

"Students are still getting one of the best values in the country," State Rep. Collins said. "We feel like we've done what we needed to do to keep a program solvent for future generations.

But State Senator Jason Carter, D-Decatur, disagrees. He lobbied for a plan that would have taken a student's financial need into consideration. He fears what the HOPE cuts and tuition hike will mean for students already struggling to pay for college.

"Because you have such a big increase in the burden on students -- both from fees and cuts to the HOPE scholarship -- you're going to have people who can't afford to go to college," State Sen. Carter said.

The regents know they are under the microscope. Students, parents and lawmakers are demanding more accountability and clear justification for any tuition hike.

But the regents insist their hands are tied because the state legislature has cut back on its share of the cost of teaching the University System's 311,000 students.

Tuition will go up about 3 percent across the board for all but a few thousand HOPE students beginning with the fall term. At Georgia's research universities -- Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Health Sciences University, tuition will go up by $106 per semester.

At the state's comprehensive universities -- the regional and state universities, tuition will go up by $64 per semester; at the state colleges, tuition will go up by $41, and at the state's two-year colleges, tuition will rise by $36 per semester.

Combined with the fact that HOPE will cover only 90% of this year's tuition rate for most of those scholarship students, Tuesday's 3% hike means it will cover only 87% for those students next fall.

School fees, which were eliminated from the HOPE program earlier this year, will see a substantial increase under the new structure as well -- with a $100 per semester increase at 29 of the state's colleges and universities; a $150 per semester increase at Georgia Gwinnett College and the College of Coastal Georgia. There will be a $250 increase at three of the state's research universities (Georgia Health Sciences University, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia), and at Georgia Tech, fees will go up $350.

University System Chancellor Erroll Davis, Jr. defended the hikes as a good deal for students.

"An education, while more expensive, still remains an excellent bargain in this state compared with all other states, particularly not only in terms of cost, but in terms of quality as well," Davis told reporters after the vote.

The lower than expected tuition hike means the state's 35 campuses will still have to cut more than $200-million from their budgets, which could mean some layoffs.

"They will most likely be in the service sector because we have continued to insist that most of our money support faculty," said UGA President Michael Adams.

Factoring in the higher fees, the total increase is 9 percent.

The state used to pick up 75 percent of the cost. Now its down to 55 percent.

Tuition went up by as much as 16 percent at some campuses this year. It went up 25 percent at all campuses last year.















The new formula, only valedictorians, salutatorians, or students who graduate high school with a minimum 3.7 GPA and minimum 1200 SAT score will get a full ride for tuition.

That means more students and parents will pay out of pocket for any increase.

The regents are well aware of the changes to HOPE.

Millsaps said the regents wanted to keep increases down to "as close to that 90 percent as possible."

Out of financial danger this time around are students still on the guaranteed tuition plan, which was phased out in 2009 but still has 45,000 students grandfathered in.

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