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No tuition increase expected at Georgia public colleges in the fall

Georgia Tech students were on the move in between classes on campus on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The state’s Board of Regents is expected next week to freeze tuition for the 2020-2021 school year for students at Georgia Tech and the state’s other public colleges.
Georgia Tech students were on the move in between classes on campus on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The state’s Board of Regents is expected next week to freeze tuition for the 2020-2021 school year for students at Georgia Tech and the state’s other public colleges.

The chief of the state’s university system is recommending a tuition freeze for the upcoming academic year at Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities.

On Tuesday, the Board of Regents, the appointed board that oversees Georgia public higher education system, will be asked to approve a recommendation of no increase in tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year. That means students will pay the same tuition rates as they do now.

“One of the University System of Georgia’s top priorities is affordability, and that has never been more important than now for our students and their families,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement. “We are all trying to navigate an extraordinary time. It is more critical than ever for our institutions to provide a quality education while maintaining the affordability and accessibility that helps more Georgians attain a college degree and find success in the workforce.”

Out of the 16 states that make up the Southern Regional Education Board, the USG has the fourth lowest in-state tuition and fees for undergraduates at four-year institutions. “USG continues to do all we can to ensure the cost of our colleges and universities remains among the lowest of our peers, while keeping a sharp focus on providing students with a high-quality, affordable and accessible experience,” said Regents chair Sachin Shailendra in a statement. “I support the recommendation of Chancellor Wrigley and know that the board will support and approve it at our meeting on Tuesday.”

Any relief Georgia students may feel over the tuition freeze could be short-lived, as the coronavirus pandemic could decimate state budgets, and that would sap public college funding. During the 2008 recession, Georgia dramatically slashed its investment in higher education. State higher-education allocations were cut about 28% between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2013, or just over $2,600 per Georgia college student.

The state has steadily restored college budgets, enabling the Regents to minimize tuition increases over the past several years. But the inevitable economic slowdown from the pandemic could reverse that trend.

“I think the tuition freeze is the right decision for students, but colleges will likely face tough decisions in the coming years,” said Jennifer Lee, higher education policy analyst for the left-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. “During the recession, colleges cut budgets by taking actions such as not filling vacancies, increasing class sizes … and using furlough days … These types of actions will hurt the educational experience of many students, especially those at lower-resourced colleges in the state.”