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Georgia officials approve tuition increases
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DeSherra, Gilchrist, 22, of Waynesboro, left, and Amani Crim, 22, of Woodstock, center, are all smiles as Martavious Johnson, 22, of Albany, admires his diploma during Georgia Southern University's Fall Commencement at Hanner Fieldhouse in December 2013. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Tuition is going up for Georgia students at all 31 state colleges and universities under a budget plan approved Tuesday by the state Board of Regents, including the largest increase of $372 more per semester for Georgia Tech undergraduates.

Tuition costs have increased every year since at least 2002 at Georgia’s state campuses. While the Board of Regents kept the rate of tuition increases at 2.5 percent for 27 campuses, students at the system’s four research universities will see costs increase more. The increase ranges from about $32 at state colleges to about $85 at Georgia College and State University per semester.

Georgia Southern University’s in-state tuition will rise to $2,549, which is $62 more per semester. The tuition is the same at Kennesaw State University, the University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University.

Tuition at East Georgia State College, which has campuses in Swainsboro, Statesboro and Augusta, will rise $32 per semester to $1,330.

Georgia Tech’s tuition will increase by 9 percent, bringing the per semester cost to about $4,500. Students at the University of Georgia will pay 7 percent more each semester, adding $281 to their tuition. At Georgia Regents University in Augusta and Georgia State University in Atlanta, students will pay 4 percent more, about $150 per semester.

The board also approved various student fees, including a $3 sustainability fee at Georgia State and a $100 wellness center fee at Bainbridge State College.

Chancellor Hank Huckaby said lower state support for the system contributes to the annual tuition increases. State funding and tuition contribute about 50 percent each toward operating costs. The system has to control its own expenses too, he said.

“Ideally, we’d love to get to the point where for a couple of years we’d have no increase,” Huckaby said. “We're striving for that, but we’re not there yet.”

The 2015 state budget approved by lawmakers and awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature increased funding for the university system by about $55.9 million. The budget also increased state funding for the HOPE Scholarship program by about 3 percent.

The system tuition increase will exceed that boost by about $4 million or $5 million because of the high number of scholarship recipients who attend the four research universities, said John Brown, the system’s vice chancellor fiscal affairs and treasurer.

There was no discussion of the increases among board members at Tuesday’s meeting on the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus. The board typically meets in Atlanta but holds its April and October meetings on campuses around the state.

System officials said the average tuition at Georgia state colleges and universities still is less than the average for surrounding states’ colleges and universities, including Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

Even so, Claire Suggs, the senior education policy analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said the tuition increases will hit students and their families hard next year.

“This week’s tuition hike outstrips the increases lawmakers made this year for HOPE Scholarship recipients and creates a financial burden for the thousands of students who don’t get HOPE scholarships,” Suggs said.

She pointed out that before the 2008 recession, the state paid about 75 percent of the cost of higher education, with tuition covering the rest. Now the split is about even.

“That cost shift makes it harder for Georgia students to attain a college degree and for the state to realize its goal of adding 250,000 more graduates by 2020 through Complete College Georgia,” Suggs said.

Herald Editor Jason Wermers contributed to this report.

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