DORIE TURNER, Associated Press
ATLANTA - Georgia college students will have to pay up to $450 more per semester in tuition and fees starting this fall under increases approved by the state Board of Regents on Tuesday.
The board voted to hike student costs to deal with a massive shortfall that stems from state budget cuts, skyrocketing enrollment and dried-up federal stimulus money. The state's 35 colleges and universities are set to lose $346 million in funding for the fiscal year starting July 1, sending the state's per-student funding levels back to 1994 levels.
Tuition will increase 3 percent - or between $36 and $106 per semester, depending on where students attend. In addition, students will pay hundreds more in fees for everything from athletics to technology.
A full-time student at the University of Georgia will pay $3,641 per semester this fall, plus $1,095 in fees. A student at University of West Georgia student will pay $929 in fees and $2,367 in tuition.
The increases do not apply to about 45,000 students under the state's fixed tuition plan that was suspended in 2009. They will pay the tuition rates they came in with as freshmen.
"Costs continue to go up and our support from the Legislature has continued to decline," said Chancellor Erroll Davis. "If we are to maintain quality, we need to have more resources."
The colleges will absorb about $200 million in cuts, which will mean layoffs and program cuts at many campuses despite the tuition and fee increases.
Students and families are watching tuition increases closely after lawmakers cut back the HOPE scholarship program. Thousands of students who once received full tuition at Georgia's public colleges and universities will get only a portion of that money starting this fall.
The changes were put in place to keep HOPE from going broke as the program faced flat lottery ticket sales and steep tuition hikes.
"Many students aren't going to be able to afford these tuition hikes, and HOPE isn't covering it and financial aid won't cover it, either," said Daniella Bass, a junior at Georgia State University, who said she'll have to move back in with her parents in Woodstock to save money for school.
Gov. Nathan Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson said despite the tuition increase and the changes to HOPE, Georgia colleges are still "a tremendous value."
Under the changes passed by state lawmakers, students will get 90 percent of this year's tuition levels paid for by HOPE. That amount did not take into account the tuition increases passed by the Regents on Tuesday.
Board members said they tried to stay as close to that 90 percent level as possible with the tuition hikes while still giving campuses the funds they need to keep the lights on and classrooms staffed.
"These are the realities of the economies of this state and nation in 2011. I wish it were different," said board Chairman Willis Potts.
Meanwhile, college presidents across the state said they are scrambling to raise private money to help offset tuition increases and cuts to HOPE. University of Georgia President Michael Adams said he spends one-third of his time on just that to prevent students from having to drop out because they can't afford college.
"We are going to do everything in our power to be sure that doesn't happen," said Adams.
Students at Georgia Tech will pay the largest increase in tuition and fees, a move President G.P. "Bud" Peterson said was aimed at getting the institution on par with its peers like MIT and other engineering schools. Students there will pay $3,641 per semester in tuition and $1,185 in fees.
Alexander Pearce, a senior at Kennesaw State University who is not on the HOPE scholarship, depends on his father for tuition money.
"He is taking out some debt to do this," said Pearce. "He knows education is certainly something of value and something to invest in. It's sad politicians don't see it that way."
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