The Georgia Board of Regents, acknowledging the ongoing financial hardships many students and parents are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic, voted Tuesday to hold tuition and fees at the current levels for the University System of Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities for the upcoming school year.
It is the second consecutive year for a cost freeze, following the board’s vote last April not to raise tuition during the initial economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. It’s also the fourth time in six years the board has voted not to increase tuition.
The fall 2021 semester tuition at Georgia State University, which has more students than any school in the system with more than 54,000 students, will be $4,474 for full-time, in-state students and $13,993 for out-of-state students. Fall tuition at the University of Georgia, Georgia’s flagship university, will be $4,895 for full-time, in-state students and $14,415 for out-of-state students.
“It is more important than ever for the Board of Regents to remove barriers that may stand in the way of students’ success,” the board’s chairman, Sachin Shailendra, said in a statement.
About 44% of University System of Georgia students borrowed money to help pay for college last school year. The average debt was $6,177, nearly $1,000 more than a decade ago. The increase, USG officials say, is about $400, once adjusted for inflation.
The pandemic has increased the financial burden for many students. Several interviewed Tuesday applauded the board’s decision. Some, like Mae Renaldo, 21, a graphic design major at the University of Georgia, believes the University System should lower tuition to compensate for students having to pay the full cost for two fragmented and mostly-virtual semesters.
All but one of Renaldo’s art classes this semester were fully-virtual, which meant that they did not have access to the resources and equipment that their tuition costs once afforded.
“The art school lost a lot of funding, so we don’t have the minimum of having a printer for me to print my work,” Renaldo said.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Like most colleges, those in Georgia’s public system moved to online instruction during the early months of the pandemic, and have offered a mix of in-person and online classes this school year. The system is planning a full return to in-person classes and full capacity in dorms in the fall.
During their first two years of school, Renaldo earned an income running vintage pop-up shops on weekends and making commissions from artwork. When the pandemic halted these activities, Renaldo began working at a local grocery store to pay off student fees, bills, loan payments and other living expenses.
System officials credited state and federal leaders with providing additional money in recent months to help their schools and allowing for the tuition freeze. The federal government approved about $40 billion in stimulus funds to the nation’s colleges earlier this year; Georgia will receive about $1 billion for higher education. A previous federal allotment sent more than $300 million to the state’s colleges and universities last year.
Georgia lawmakers last year ordered all state agencies to cut their budgets by about 10% because of the pandemic. University System officials said they made the cuts without impacting classroom instruction. During this year’s session, which ended March 31, state lawmakers restored most of that funding and increased the system’s general funds budget by $157 million, a 6% jump, in the upcoming fiscal year budget that begins July 1.
Georgia State University student Ausar Simmonds, 20, one of about two dozen students who participated in a spring Homecoming Week rally on the Atlanta campus Tuesday afternoon agreed with the board’s decision. Simmonds noted many students are dismayed they had to pay fees for services that have been limited during the pandemic.
“I think (the freeze) is a very good thing, especially with the pandemic and how it’s economically impacted students, especially at a school like Georgia State, which is the largest school in the state and has many students with financial challenges,” Simmonds said.
The cost for tuition and fees at Georgia’s public colleges and universities will remain the same for the upcoming school year. Here are semester tuition rates for full-time students at some of the state’s colleges.:
School: in-state students; out-of-state students
Georgia Gwinnett College: $2,009; $7,500
Georgia State University: $4,474; 13,993
(Perimeter College at Georgia State): $1,425; $5,395
Georgia Tech: $5,129; $15,685
Georgia Southern University and University of West Georgia: $2,732; $9,641
Kennesaw State University: $2,781; $9,851
University of Georgia: $4,895; $14,415
Source: University System of Georgia