Average college costs rose 77 percent in 10 years in Georgia. Why?

The cost of a public college education in Georgia has risen dramatically, according to a new state audit.

A new report by the state Department of Audits and Accounts Performance Audit Division finds Georgia families paying a marked higher price for a college education, in large part due to the slashes to higher education and reductions to the HOPE Scholarship by the Legislature.

The audit of the University System of Georgia found the average cost of college attendance increased 77 percent, from $8,361 to $14,791 per year, between 2006 and 2015.

Why?

“Between fiscal years 2006 and 2015, state appropriations failed to keep pace with enrollment, which effectively resulted in a 15 percent decrease (or a $1,288 per full-time-enrolled student decrease) in USG funding. To offset this decrease, USG increased tuition and instituted a special institutional fee, which did not fully offset the loss in state appropriations when considering inflation. Increases in the average tuition rate (including the special institutional fee) ranged from 86 percent at USG’s state colleges to 55 percent at its comprehensive universities over the 10-year period.

In addition to tuition increases, changes to the HOPE Scholarship and institution-level decisions to increase mandatory fees and expand auxiliary programs have also played a role in students’ increased cost of attendance. The average HOPE Scholarship award decreased by 22 percent ($1,087 per year) and changes in eligibility criteria reduced the number of awards made. Additionally, USG institutions have increased mandatory fees, excluding the special institutional fee, by an average of $218 (75 percent) per semester from $292 to $510 since 2006. Increases in “elective” fees for auxiliary programs such as housing and dining have also had an impact on student costs…Typical housing expenses for USG students have increased 56 percent and typical dining expenses have increased 60 percent, both more than double the inflation rate. Despite these increases, the cost of attendance remains lower at most USG institutions than at peer institutions in other states.

While public colleges in Georgia may cost less than some other states, any comparisons have to acknowledge the greater percentage of financially strapped households here. Only six states have higher rates of people living below the poverty level, according to 2014 And 2015 U.S. Census data.

Georgia has 18.3 percent of its population below the poverty line, sharing 7th place with West Virginia and Tennessee. The poverty threshold, as designated by the Census Bureau, is $15,379 for a family of two, and $24,230 for a family of four, which translates into $296 and $466 a week respectively, before taxes.

While legislators contend HOPE offers a lifeline to low-income students, the audit found students suffered when the merit-based scholarship funded by the Georgia Lottery was reduced. Worried lottery proceeds would not meet rising demand, lawmakers in 2012 pared down HOPE, which originally covered 100 percent of tuition.

Now, HOPE is recalculated annually based on available lottery funds and underwrites a portion of tuition. For example, HOPE now covers 71 percent of the tuition at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Legislature created a new elite category of HOPE, the Zell Miller Scholarship, which still pays full tuition for students who graduate high school with at least a 3.7 GPA and at least a 26 on the ACT or a 1200 on the SAT.  Zell Miller scholars have to maintain a 3.3 college GPA. Neither Hope Lite nor Zell Miller contributes toward mandatory student fees and book expenses.

To raise revenue in response to dwindling state support, the USG created mandatory fees that are not covered by HOPE and fall directly on students, according to the audit:

Another factor increasing the net cost of attendance for students receiving HOPE is that USG implemented a system-wide general purpose mandatory student fee. While the fee is an alternative form of tuition, USG implemented this increase as a fee rather than increasing tuition. The fee is not covered by HOPE. We estimate that in fiscal year 2016 students funded $61.4 million in USG costs that would have been previously covered by the HOPE scholarship program had BOR increased tuition rather than create the new Special Institutional Fee. This has increased net cost of attendance by an average of $580 per year.

Mandatory fees charged by USG institutions in fiscal year 2017 vary from $763 per semester at Valdosta State University to $202 at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus. Over the past 10 years, USG institutions have significantly increased mandatory fees by an average of $218 (75 percent) per semester from $292 to $510. These increases have varied at the USG institutions ranging from $368 (119 percent) at Savannah State University to $42 (26 percent) at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville. The addition or increase in mandatory fees has a cumulative impact on a student’s total cost of attendance. For example, if a fee is increased by $100 per semester, it could increase the total cost of a four-year degree by as much as $800 if the student graduates within eight semesters.

As many of you have suggested in past blog discussions, the state’s adulation of college sports plays a role in rising costs, according to the audit:

Athletic fees are often the highest mandatory fee at USG institutions. Currently, USG institutions charge an average $155 athletic fee per semester. Over the past 10 years, all USG institutions, with the exception of the University of Georgia and Bainbridge State College, have either added a new athletic fee or have increased existing athletic fees. These new or increased fees have increased student costs by an average of $66 per semester. Five institutions added an athletic fee to support newly established intercollegiate athletic programs increasing student costs from $83 at Dalton State College to $175 at Augusta University-Health Sciences campus. The remaining 23 USG institutions increased the fee for established intercollegiate athletic programs by $10 at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to $137 at the College of Coastal Georgia…Georgia State University increased its fee from $142 to $357 per semester in fiscal year 2009 to fund the addition of an intercollegiate football program and to move from NCAA Division I-AA to Division I-A. The fee has since decreased to its current rate of $277 per semester.

The General Assembly will look at college costs and affordability this session. What would you suggest lawmakers do, if anything, about tuition and access?

 

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
Jackson
Jackson

Georgia needs to increase education quality and decrease costs in light of flat tax revenues. Students and parents face skyrocketing post-high school education costs and an extremely competitive global job market that demands real skills and experience.


Sharing resources across our higher education system (colleges, universities, community colleges, and vocational schools) and our high schools will substantially answer these challenges. The goal is to create clear and cohesive vocational and college prep paths starting as soon as the 9th grade.


New vocational tracks will allow high school students to attend local vocational schools to receive marketable job training and a high school diploma. The requirements for 

graduation/certification should be set by the current accepted vocational/community college system. Students that pass a state-approved vocational school program earn a high school diploma, regardless of whether they have or not they have met all of the high school’s other curriculum requirements.


Transferring payments between high schools and higher education schools would be straight forward, requiring only a modest expansion of Georgia’s existing college-prep joint enrollment program payment sharing framework.

We should also expand the general public’s access to higher education by letting those schools offer night classes in high school facilities. It would increase higher education enrollment by making classes more geographically convenient to attend and would slow the need for higher education schools to build more space, ultimately saving taxpayers money. Coordinating college and vocational program requirements with the Chamber of Commerce will help ensure that employer needs are met and would foster the creation of valuable co-op and internship opportunities.


High school students who are enrolled in a higher education program could have their annual No-Child-Left-Behind (NCLB) standardized testing requirements waived because they would have already exceed NCLB-equivalent requirements to get into their program. This will decrease the burden on Georgia schools and taxpayers by eliminating redundant end-of-year testing and tracking costs.


Resource sharing will lower Georgia’s dropout rates by giving high school students education options that meet their aptitude, rather than using today’s failing one-size-fits-all approach. 


(Requiring a student with an aptitude for mechanical work to pass Algebra II in order to graduate high school creates far more dropouts than it does mechanics who factor polynomial equations during their lunch break.) It would also stimulate the economy by creating more work-ready job applicants.


Finally, resource sharing will significantly reduce costs for Georgia families by increasing the opportunities for high school students to receive vocational training or some college course credits—both of which are extremely expensive to acquire once a student leaves high school. Working high school students will also have greater schedule flexibility to help meet their employer’s needs.


Let’s put ideology aside and work together to create a system that builds on each student’s aptitude — our existing one-size-fits-all system is leaving too many of our kids behind.

Jackson
Jackson

http://getschooled.blog.myajc.com/.../opinion-cap.../ But the biggest driver is the availability of unlimited student loan money. Students can borrow whatever the schools charge, which means schools have no incentive to control costs. How would you like to run a business where your customers were willing to pay almost any price increase? Sign me up!


Astropig
Astropig

@Jackson


Bingo. When ExxonMobil does this,they're called greedy. When Dear Old State U does this,the blame falls on the legislature (and by association,the people that elected them-you connect the dots).


Why do we let university officials off the hook? Why don't we get some accountability for rising prices and costs from the state U system?

BEP12
BEP12

@Jackson I wish all my customers never asked about how much it costs, or could borrow whatever to pay me, too.  Plus, the incentives for school Presidents and leaders are perverse: it's always how much they can spend on new things. What President wants to say after serving 7 years: " I cut costs and got rid of non-teaching related administrative positions, and got rid of worthless majors and classes."

CSpinks
CSpinks

"jmts," THANKS  for pointing our my mistaken assertion that USG institutions got 77% more money in 2015 than they did in 2006. I should have read more thoroughly.


But I'd still like to see external audits of the finances of USG institutions to determine specifically where they're spending the funds they receive from students, our state legislators, HOPE payments and other sources. 

Caroline Reid Crow
Caroline Reid Crow

Because once they cashed in on Hope - they raised the fees because they are super greedy.

jmts
jmts

CSpinks - Before questioning qualifications, maybe you should read the actual report. The institutions did not get 77% more money between 2006 and 2015, and the report makes that clear. The students' costs increased 77%, largely due to a decrease in appropriations and a reduction in HOPE payments in relation to tuition. And I don't think auditors, regardless of their experience, should be the people that make the final decision regarding the appropriateness of housing fees or athletic fees. Let them describe the reason for the increase and the General Assembly/Governor and other policy makers decide if this is the best use of limited student funds.

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Fancy football stadia, absurd administrator salaries, and proliferating corps of administrators, perhaps? Most faculty salaries are appalling, so don't look there....

CSpinks
CSpinks

And, as I understand the situation, many new faculty positions are of the non-tenure-track, adjunct variety paying minimal salaries.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

Tuition increases are not the only

expenses that affect students. 

Room and board is very expensive

in many states (New York & California).

Textbooks are also another major

expense for students (Example- $275

for a math textbook/ I see why many

students are using Amazon and renting

textbooks.) . 



CSpinks
CSpinks

@E Pluribus Unum Our granddaughter, a student at Augusta University, rents many of her textbooks to reduce her costs.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

College costs increased 77% in Georgia

because of increased demand,building

costs, and employee costs (increased

health benefit costs).

CSpinks
CSpinks

Why did USG institutions "need" 77% more money in 2015 than they did in 2006? Which of their costs have seen such marked increases? Why have such increases occurred? And, no offense to the folks at The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, let's bring in experienced, out-of-state accounting firms to ask these and other questions related to this cost spike. 

Jim Milliman
Jim Milliman

Especially with blossoming of online courses during that time period. I would assume that online courses have lower costs than traditional classroom courses but I maybe wrong about this.

Melanie Patterson
Melanie Patterson

One would think. But I know I paid the same for them when I was in college.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

FYI: Here is U.S. Education Secretary John King's response to the free tuition proposal today by New York Gov. Cuomo:


“Making college more affordable and accessible for all Americans is critical to President Obama’s goal of having the highest share of college graduates in the world and to ensuring America’s long-term economic prosperity. That’s why the President has called on Congress to make two years of community college free so that students can earn the skills needed to succeed in the workforce or the first half of a bachelor’s degree at no cost. While Congress hasn’t acted on legislation that has been introduced in both chambers, states like New York and various cities are taking important steps to make this a reality for students and families. I applaud Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in expanding the doors of opportunity for New Yorkers, particularly those who otherwise may not be able to afford it.”

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Speaking of making college more affordable: From today's New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan Tuesday morning to offer free tuition at state colleges to hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers, seizing on a popular liberal talking point on the eve of national Republican ascension.

Under the governor’s plan, any college student who has been accepted to a state or city university in New York — including two-year community colleges — will be eligible provided they or their family earn $125,000 or less annually.

Called the Excelsior Scholarship, the funds are envisioned as a way to complete tuition payments by supplementing existing state and federal loan and grant programs.


http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/nyregion/free-tuition-new-york-colleges-plan.html?hpw&rref=nyregion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0