Higher education changes to come in 2020

Students walk on the Georgia Southern University campus in Savannah on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Fees, required courses and arrangements for deferred some tuition payment are among higher education issues on the horizon next year in Georgia. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.
Students walk on the Georgia Southern University campus in Savannah on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Fees, required courses and arrangements for deferred some tuition payment are among higher education issues on the horizon next year in Georgia. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.

In less than three weeks, we’ll be in the year 2020.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some issues in higher education that will be on the horizon next year in Georgia.

Dual enrollment

Enrollment in the popular program that lets students take college courses in high school nearly quadrupled, from 11,484 to 43,639 students, in five years, state officials said. The increase worries some lawmakers as costs have skyrocketed. A state report last year found general fund spending increased from $18.5 million in fiscal year 2014 to $78.8 million in fiscal year 2018 for tuition, fees and books. The Georgia Legislature is expected to explore some tweaks to the program, such as reducing the courses offered.

Student fees

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley announced last month a group will look at how much students are paying in various fees and consider some changes. Kennesaw State University President Pamela Whitten is leading the group. The fees at some institutions are more than $1,000 a semester. The state's Board of Regents earlier this year approved fee increases from $4 to $50 per semester for students at 11 schools.

Core curriculum

A University System of Georgia committee is working on some changes to what courses students must take and improvements to what students learn in these courses. The Georgia system hasn’t updated its core curriculum in 20 years. Students are currently required to take 14 core courses, or 42 credit hours. Students must take various courses in math, science, technology and the humanities. The system hopes to have recommendations ready early next year for the Regents’ review and approval.

Income Sharing Agreements

Brenau University in August announced plans to offer "Income Sharing Agreements," in which students commit a percentage of their future career earnings over a period of time to repay some of their tuition without interest. Brenau, a private university, has four Georgia campuses and about 3,800 students. A state senator from Gwinnett County proposed a bill this year to introduce such a program for public colleges but lawmakers had many questions, and the legislation was held. The Trump administration has expressed interest in creating such a program.

Borrower defense

Federal education officials in September set a three-year eligibility period for students seeking to have student loan repayments forgiven when a school abruptly closes, such as when for-profit Argosy University shut down earlier this year. Experts predict some changes to borrower-defense regulations. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., co-sponsored a bill that would make the borrower-defense rule permanent and allow for student loan relief in cases of misconduct by institutions.

New leaders

College presidential tenures are becoming shorter — less than 7 years, on average — due to the 24/7 job demands, friction with trustees and other factors. Some Atlanta-area universities will be looking for new presidents in 2020. Emory University President Claire Sterk plans to leave her post in August after taking the job in 2016. Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall is leaving in June after 15 years on the job.