May 10, 2017, Atlanta, Georgia - Students along with their family and friends from Kennesaw State University in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences attend their Commencement ceremony to graduate from the university in Kennesaw, Georgia, on May 10, 2017. Two new reports show the state of Georgia is committing a smaller percentage of money for college costs. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)
Photo: Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC
Photo: Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC

Georgia colleges need more state support, studies say

Two organizations have issued new reports reaching the same conclusion: The state of Georgia is not doing enough financially to help students graduate from its colleges.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report Wednesday that shows Georgia had the fourth-highest tuition increase of any state since 2008, nearly 75 percent. The data was adjusted for inflation and focuses on four-year institutions.

A separate report released Tuesday by the Atlanta-based Georgia Budget and Policy Institute showed per-student funding declines greater than 10 percent for students during the same time period in the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia.

“[L]ong-term declines in state funding are causing colleges and universities to rely more heavily on tuition, fees and federal sources of money,” the GBPI report said. “The great challenge and opportunity for Georgia’s colleges and universities is to support a diverse group of students to graduation and equip them for economic success. The strength of Georgia’s economy depends on it.”

The GBPI report highlights some economic and racial gaps in graduation rates and funding. For example, graduation rates were just 11 percent for state college students with household incomes less than $35,000 a year. It also found only 5 percent of Zell Miller Scholars were black, although black students make up 28 percent of enrollment. Zell Miller Scholarship recipients must graduate from high school with a minimum 3.7 grade point average and surpass various totals on the SAT or ACT.

A state audit released late last year found the bulk of increases in college costs in recent years were for housing and dining. USG officials have approved some changes to control costs for student fees and dining.

USG officials have noted their schools’ average tuition, about $7,100 a year, is the sixth lowest among the 16 states in the Southern Regional Education Board. USG average tuition and fees averaged 25 percent less than institutions in peer states charge, the audit report found. 

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