The state of Georgia covers 54% of the cost of a University student's education. A decade ago this figure was 75%. This fact partially explains why the costs to the student and their families have increased and why graduates are emerging laden down with debt. Another part of the explanation is what they're paying for.
Although most of them don't know what it's for, Georgia's college students are paying a "special institutional fee" that can exceed $1,000 a year.
The fee was supposed to end this summer, but University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby told the AJC last week that it will continue next year and probably beyond. The reason: It brings in $210 million a year.
President Obama has declared he wants everyone to get a college degree. The main question is how people are going to afford it. While state subsidy for undergraduate education is falling, spending is increasing to a projected $7 billion this year and not expected to slow down. Over the last seven years the cost of tuition to the student has nearly doubled.
It is commonplace in Georgia for parents to take out loans to cover the cost of their children's education.
For their part, college presidents said they have increased class sizes, reduced the number of course sections offered, eliminated open positions and held off on maintenance and new technology to absorb cuts in state spending. They note that they've made these cuts while teaching record numbers of students.
While the acrimonious debate on attribution of blame for rising costs continues between the legislators, who say that the University System spending is out of control, and the administrators who decry large cuts to their state funding, the students are undoubtedly the ones paying the cost. Of interest are the salaries of the increasing number of administrators in the Georgia University system.
While most of the system's 42,000 employees haven't received a raise since shortly after the start of the Great Recession, the AJC found that top administrators are getting top pay. UGA President Michael Adams, for example, saw his pay package jump $50,000, to $660,318, this school year. Two other presidents — Albany State's Everette Freeman and Fort Valley State's Larry Rivers — also got raises so that their total compensation increased from $198,456 to $225,000.
Many are hopeful that new University System Chancellor, Hank Huckaby can attain his stated goal of moderating the rate of cost increases. A major cause of expense in the past has been campus construction and Huckaby wants to slow this. He has also already announced plans to merge eight colleges into four.