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Georgia University System Holds Line on Tuition as Chancellor Warns of Economic Headwinds

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by Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder

Most Georgia college students will pay about the same tuition and fees this fall, but University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue warned that a state budget cut could put college presidents in a tough position.

“They’re under a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said. “We need to recognize that and thank them and help them the best we can. We’re about to reach a tipping point here at our university system, where we’re going to need more resources in the future to maintain the quality of our academic programs and our college experiences so that our students and families continue to receive a great education for the money here.”

The Georgia Board of Regents voted Tuesday on a plan to keep tuition flat at all but one of the system’s 26 universities – Middle Georgia State University students will pay an extra $19 per credit hour for in-state students or $66 per credit hour for out-of-state students.

Students at the University of West Georgia, Georgia College and State University and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will have to shell out an extra $12 to $15 in mandatory fees, according to the plan.

The regents voted not to raise the rates despite warnings of financial challenges ahead. Enrollment is down at most of the state’s higher education institutions, and fewer students translates to fewer dollars distributed from the state budget formula.

On top of that, the spending plan signed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month includes a $66 million cut from the university system for a medical records system. With tuition and all other sources, the university system’s budget totals just under $9 billion.

Perdue said inflation is sticking the colleges with higher costs for utilities, health care and cost of living adjustments for employees, and he said he looks forward to working with the state Legislature to reverse the cuts.

“I think it’s evident and clear we’re not trying to recover that through any other means,” he said. “We’ve got to go and appeal to our public funders of the challenges that we have, the funding challenges there, and the needs. We’ve invested too long in our education system in Georgia to watch it just go back down because I can tell you other states, they’re not (waiting) around, they’re investing, and we need to be with them in that way.”

“This is not about playing politics,” he added. “This is too important for politics, but very much working to maintain our principles and our priorities of educating the best students in the best state in the country and being in the best system.”

The cuts were proposed by the state Senate after a tiff over a hospital regulations bill pushed by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones that Perdue said could threaten a partnership deal between the university and Wellstar Health System. The bill did not pass.

Jones has responded to Perdue’s complaints by asking the university system to report how much it spends on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“I’m going to continue to ask the University System to evaluate all of their spending,” Jones said in a tweet. “They receive a 10th of the state budget, equaling around $3.1B. If this significant amount of taxpayer dollars isn’t enough, I believe we need a thorough analysis.

This story was written by Ross Williams, a reporter at the Georgia Recorder, where this story first appeared.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.