Georgia Board of Regents to keep tuition steady for most schools

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Tuition rates will remain the same next school year at all but one of Georgia’s public universities, even as they face tighter budgets due to a state funding cut, lower enrollments and inflation.

The Georgia Board of Regents voted Tuesday to keep undergraduate and graduate tuition steady at 25 of the 26 schools within the University System of Georgia. Only Middle Georgia State University will see a tuition bump of $19 per hour for in-state undergraduate students and $66 per hour for out-of-state students effective fall 2023.

Tuition rates at other Georgia public universities will remain unchanged. For Georgia Tech, that’s $5,129 per semester. At University of Georgia, it’s $4,895.

Chancellor Sonny Perdue touted the decision, the sixth time in the last eight years tuition has stayed flat at most schools. He also noted last year’s move to eliminate a “special institution fee,” in place since 2009, that had cost students several hundred dollars per semester, depending on the school.

Still, he described this year’s budget as “a challenge” and said college presidents are under tremendous pressure to trim costs.

Lawmakers chopped $66 million from the University System’s $3.1 billion in state funding on the final day of the legislative session in March. Gov. Brian Kemp signed that budget, for the fiscal year starting July 1, earlier this month.

The University System will “do everything we can” to restore that funding through midyear budget amendments early next year, Perdue said.

“We’ve invested too long in our education system in Georgia to watch it just go back down,” he said.

Regent Neil L. Pruitt, Jr., who oversees the finance committee, told the board he considers Tuesday’s budget steps “a temporary fix for the year.”

Officials said they tried to distribute state funding strategically to help smaller schools that can’t absorb reductions as easily as larger schools with more resources and capacity.

UGA will shoulder the largest share of $66 million cut, about $19 million. The much-smaller College of Coastal Georgia, meanwhile, will see the lowest reduction, about $86,000.

Twenty of the 26 schools are receiving less money because of recent enrollment declines, leading to vacancies going unfilled as well as faculty and staff cuts. Board documents say that the state decrease “will have a negative impact on the operating budgets for institutions in the upcoming fiscal year.”

It was not immediately clear how schools would absorb those cuts. Officials said they don’t know if some schools will end up dipping into “carry forward” funds left over in their budgets, as some lawmakers have advised.

Perdue previously called the state funding decrease “incredibly disappointing,” and University System officials said in April it could lead to higher tuition and fees.

The cut is just over half the amount that Kemp and lawmakers approved earlier this year for a new electronic medical records system at the Medical College of Georgia, part of Augusta University. Senate leaders had questioned that cost, which came as Wellstar Health System was negotiating a deal to take over Augusta’s hospital system. The Board of Regents later agreed to the Wellstar partnership.

In late April, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones told the University System he wants to know how much its colleges spend on diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Jones said he made the request after hearing Perdue’s criticism of the state funding cuts.

The board on Tuesday also approved a dozen changes to mandatory fees at five schools. At the University of West Georgia, for example, the transportation fee will go from $90 to $105 per semester. At a couple of schools, such as Georgia Gwinnett College, a number of fee increases and decreases cancel each other out for a net change of zero.

Housing and dining rates do not require board approval. The average increase for housing rates is 3.9% and the average increase for dining rates is 4.3% across schools. The increases are due to wage and inflation costs, University System officials said.