Georgia colleges ‘purge’ between 20,000 and 30,000 students a year over unpaid tuition

Georgia is purging thousands of students from college rolls because they can’t pay tuition. Is need-based aid the answer? KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Hala Moddelmog is president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Alicia Philipp is president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. In this column, they tackle a topic we discussed recently on the blog — the dearth of need-based college aid in Georgia.

The issue was discussed this week at a half-day forum at the Metro Atlanta Chamber offices in downtown Atlanta. Among the speakers at the “Forum on the Future: Georgia’s Workforce Pipeline, College Affordability and the Impact of Needs-Based Financial Aid” were Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Chuck Knapp, president emeritus, University of Georgia.

By Hala Moddelmog & Alicia Philipp

With Georgia’s job growth out pacing the nation’s, it is imperative that students have access to in-demand education pathways and training necessary to fill these jobs. In the next four years, an estimated 60 percent of the jobs in our state will require at least a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. But right now, only about 46 percent of the state’s core workforce is prepared at these levels.

That’s why our organizations—the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta— co-sponsored a high-level meeting for higher education leaders, lawmakers, national experts, and foundation executives Thursday. The message is clear: We must take steps to ensure students stay on track to graduate with in-demand degrees or certifications, and make postsecondary programs affordable for more Georgians.

In 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal set a goal to add 250,000 postsecondary degrees and certificates to the workforce by 2025. (That’s over and above the number that our state would normally produce.) Throughout the state, universities, technical schools, and community colleges have been working together to get more students across the graduation stage—and some progress has been made. As of this year, students have achieved about 74,000 of those credentials.

But that still leaves more than 175,000 degrees—or about 17,500 more per year.

Closing Georgia’s talent gap will require making sure that students’ credentials are aligned with the demands of the 21st century economy. A recent report by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Accenture, “Your Talent, Your Future,” found that students who do go to college aren’t pursuing the degrees and certificates that employers value. But more graduates, in the right fields, would mean more opportunities to close this gap.

It is no secret that money is the most significant barrier to postsecondary education. Countless Georgians never enroll in postsecondary programs because they don’t believe they can pay for them. And students who do start a postsecondary program are held to overly strict financial terms that don’t give them adequate time to pay their tuition bills. We can do better.

In fact, the number of Georgia students who are “purged” for not paying tuition bills is stunning: between 20,000 and 30,000 students each year, according to new data from the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia. The sums of money causing students to be dropped are small, often less than $1,000.

This is a problem that can be solved. Here’s the bottom line: Reaching our goal of adding 250,000 degree-holders by 2025 will be tremendously difficult without supporting these students with need-based financial aid.

We know this can be accomplished because our state has been a leader when it comes to funding higher education: Georgia was an early investor in merit-based financial aid. The HOPE scholarship program, launched over two decades ago, puts Georgia at the top when it comes to merit aid—and many thousands of students with demonstrated records of academic achievement have walked across the graduation stage as a result.

For those who are forced to leave behind their studies because of unmet financial need, small sums of money could make all the difference. A number of initiatives within the state are already working to break down barriers facing low-income degree-seekers, and in the process, they are displaying how need-based awards can enhance both opportunities and outcomes.

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, for example, administers an important new scholarship program funded by the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation. The Achieve Atlanta scholarship is a need-based award for Atlanta Public School graduates who qualify for Pell grants (small federal awards for low-income postsecondary students). Launched this year, the program already has awarded 564 students scholarships of up to $5,000 for those enrolling at a four-year school, and $1,500 for those going to two-year colleges or technical programs.

Georgia State University in 2012 launched the Panther Retention Grant program, which provides “micro-grants” to students in danger of being purged from the rolls because they can’t afford to cover an unpaid balance on their account. It targets juniors and seniors who are nearing the completion of their degrees. To date, some 8,117 students have been able to stay at GSU because of the grants, which average around $900 each.

These are significant steps to address the problem, but much more must be done for our state to reach Gov. Deal’s goal. Nationally, Georgia is one of just two states that offers no need-based aid. A small amount could go a long way for hardworking students—and for our collective economic future.

 

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
Roberta Cromlish
Roberta Cromlish

Oh my. I wonder what happens when you don't pay your electric or heat bill?

Tom Green
Tom Green

Maybe it's their first lesson in the real world where if you don't pay your bills, there are consequences.

Michael2255
Michael2255

Back in the day we called him Charles Be Knapping.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

College/university tuition is not an entitlement.

When I attended Tech, I paid by working and using savings. Had I not paid, I would not gave graduated.

Now I have friends whose daughter graduated university two years ago with a bachelor's degree in poetry. She could only find employment in libraries and bookstores. Now she is back to university to take a master's degree in poetry. When she graduates she will have the same employment prospects as before. Should taxpayers pay for this? I say no.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@BurroughstonBroch 

Ga. Tech. tuition+fees this year cost $27,420 for Georgia residents. The days are long past when wages from an unskilled labor job could pay for that. Your "savings" most probably were your parents.'  So your own experience must have been many decades ago. Your friends' daughter has already gotten her Bachelor's degree.  Taxpayers will not be paying for her graduate degree, so her case is irrelevant too.


The state of Georgia wants to increase the numbers of Georgians who get college degrees for good, solid reasons: this will help lower the state's unemployment rate. These are all Georgians, not just those who wish an engineering degree. Most state schools charge much less than GT. I say that we need badly to increase need-based (NOT merit-based) financial aid available for all Georgians.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Michael2255 @BurroughstonBroch

BB got paid to walk uphill in the snow to and from GA Tech back in the day. He got paid time and a half when he did it barefooted. He is now semi retired and has a part time job holding a sign for homeowners that says "Get off this lawn". If they don't-he calls them a whippersnapper.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@OriginalProf
"Ga. Tech. tuition+fees this year cost $27,420 for Georgia residents. "

This statement is wrong (by  a lot).  Total tuition and fees for 2 full semesters at Georgia Tech this year = $12,212.

The figure you cite is the full "cost of attendance" including room, board (all the food a student could possibly eat), books, miscellaneous expenses, AND $60 for "average student loan expenses".  

Indeed, although tuition, fees, room, and board remained the same this year as last, the total "cost of attendance" rose by $1,200 because annual "personal/misc" costs increased from $2,000 last year to $3,200 this year.  This because colleges are now allowed to disburse "miscellaneous costs" in cash to their scholarship athletes.

I write this as an expert, i.e. a parent currently writing checks to the institute.

http://www.finaid.gatech.edu/current-cost-overview

gapeach101
gapeach101

Back in the day,  a man particularly could work a summer job and pay for the next year of college.  That is no longer the case.  I say man because they could typically get higher paying labor jobs, while women tended to have minimum wage jobs (and a smaller network ) 

Doug Godbold
Doug Godbold

You extended my service without my permission past the date I was told it was end and now claim I owe the balance. Customer service basically told me tough and that I owe it. Your newspaper has worse service than a bank, or the DMV.

thunderbird1
thunderbird1

Georgia went to needs based only through HOPE to have poor minorities subsidize the college education of upper middle class Whites.  The overwhelming portion of lottery tickets are sold in poor communities about 70-80%.  Since HOPE is not needs based, many of these Upper middle class families send their children to private school and pay, thus separating themselves from diverse schools.  These private schools then assure these White students of the grades necessary to qualify for HOPE grants, thus enabling 80-90% of HOPE awards going to upper middle class White families off the dime of poor minorities, whose kids receive so little of HOPE.


Here again, in the South, we have the system rigged to screw minorities to enhance White families.  Thats why you see Lottery signs posted all over Black minority communities to get the money to fund White kids education.

YourWifesBoyfriend
YourWifesBoyfriend

Go figure - the first comment dives head-first into the blame game. Let's just ignore the facts in favor of your version of the truth. So I assume you believe if a car strikes a crowd and kills 50 people, it's the driver's fault because he left the road - regardless of the fact that the car was hit by another vehicle to send it off course. That sums up your flaccid argument - you're ignoring all of the other problems that lead up to the 2% of the story that's got your drawers in a bunch.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Perhaps they should be asking why Georgia dropped out of the SSIG (State Student Incentive Grant )program, a federal matching grant program for very needy students.  Before HOPE, we had a good program; after HOPE, I guess it was decided that that money was "wasted" on students whose only claim was need. 

redweather
redweather

@Wascatlady As far as I can tell only two states--New Mexico and North Carolina--have SSIG.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@redweather @Wascatlady Georgia participated until about 1994-5 (shortly after HOPE arrived).  Would have been great, since HOPE is self-sustaining, if Georgia continued to participate, for the sake of poor kids.  Remember, at this time the poorest kids COULD not get HOPE, no matter how high their grades, due to the provision that if you got Pell you could not get HOPE.


Many states have much more robust need-based state scholarships and grants.  Others, like Georgia, have gone to almost all merit-based.



LegolasMirkwood
LegolasMirkwood

As companies begin to rely more on certifications (specialties) more than overall degrees (similar to specialties in the field of medicine), it might make more sense to subsidize employers to train their employees to the certifications required for specific jobs.  2yr college +employer reimbursement for successfully obtained certifications under the employer.


http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/information-security-certifications,2-205.html


http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/programming-certifications,2-274.html


http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/database-certifications,2-664.html


http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/networking-certifications,2-208.html


Kinda Summary:

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2956194/application-development/the-real-dirt-on-programming-certifications.html


Putting in a framework to make that a workable proposition and having the incentive of actively working on the job toward that certification makes much more sense to me than the current model.  An additional benefit would be putting the knowledge to immediate use, and practice before forgetting  what has been learned.  A targeted shot for immediate effect rather than a shotgun blast of a little bit of everything far downrange, hoping to hit someone's target before the useful information is forgotten.

Starik
Starik

Employers will happily employ people who have "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps." If the employers find that the people with certificates, degrees and credentials can't perform the work they should be doing based on their training what then?  Can the employer train them on the job? If not, what happens then?  If you fire or demote the employee you need to have a good legal case if the employee has the privilege of calling in EEOC or a union.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik Get informed before you show how much you don't know-again

speccie
speccie

@gactzn2 

Go peddle race-hate somewhere else. We're full up here.

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik I don't have time to talk now, but if you want to have a rational discussion why don't we meet up here, at the very bottom of this thread this evening - I'll be free sometime around 8pm. I'm worried about the effect of this Charlotte mess on the election, among other things.

Starik
Starik

@Surelyyoujest @Starik A performance like the riots in Charlotte is likely to energize Trump supporters, don't you think?