No tuition hike for Georgia public college students next year

Tuition at Georgia's public colleges and universities will not increase next year, giving students a financial reprieve from years of hikes that have raised questions from state lawmakers.

The state's Board of Regents, the governing body for Georgia's University System, announced the tuition freeze Tuesday. The freeze applies to all students in the system's 29 institutions, and means they will pay the same tuition amount they paid when school began this school year.

"We have heard from students, parents and legislators regarding year-over-year tuition increases citing concerns about the rising costs of a college education in Georgia," said Chancellor Hank Huckaby. "We recognize and share their concerns about college affordability. Today's announcement demonstrates we are listening to students, their families and legislators and taking meaningful action."

The announcement comes after years of increases for students, including tuition hikes ranging from 9 percent to 2. 5 percent this school year.

For students even the smallest increases can have a large impact.

"That 2.5 percent increase can mean the difference between a student taking a full course load or living on campus or off campus," said Michaela Climer, student government association president at the University of North Georgia. "With some students already taking on more debt and having to take out loans, this will definitely provide them some relief."

The rising tuition rates had become an issue during the current legislative session, with state lawmakers questioning the need for the increases and requesting justification. A bill was proposed last week that would have barred the public colleges and universities from major tuition hikes more than the rate of inflation. Lawmakers had also been concerned that the rising tuition costs had led to the popular HOPE scholarship no longer being able to cover the full tuition for most students.

Huckaby had spoken repeatedly about trying to get the system to lower or even no increases.

“I understand how hard it is to pay your tuition every semester. When I went to school, I paid my way through and I remember those tough days, ” Huckaby said last year when this year’s tuition increase was approved.

Through a University System spokesman, he declined to comment further on the tuition freeze Tuesday.

“We carefully assess the tuition rates for our institutions and are committed to keeping college as affordable as possible for students and their families,” Kessel Stelling, chairman of the Board of Regents, said in a statement.