Georgia colleges hold line on tuition, cut some summer fees

Despite bleeding revenue after students went home because of COVID-19, Georgia’s public universities and colleges will give those 330,000 students a break on costs for online summer classes and mostly hold the line on next year’s costs.

Chancellor Steve Wrigley told regents Tuesday in a meeting conducted by telephone that he thought it was an important gesture to students facing challenges from the coronavirus outbreak.

The move could also make it easier for universities to recruit students going forward even as student recruitment nationwide has been thrown into confusion by school closures and uncertainty over what will happen next.

“We felt like it was the appropriate thing to recommend to y’all that we not raise tuition this fall,” Wrigley said just before regents voted on the package of measures.

The typical Georgia undergraduate was charged $7,268 in tuition and mandatory fees this year, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. Many paid less because of financial aid or HOPE scholarships. Georgia’s sticker price was lower than all but three other states in the 16-state region.

Regents voted Tuesday to cut online tuition to the same level as face-to-face tuition for Georgia residents starting with the summer semester, speeding up a phase-out of higher online tuition. The move cut costs for at least some programs at 18 institutions, typically by 5% to 10%.

The system also voted to ban most types of mandatory fees for summer classes, which can tack as much as $1,200 onto the cost of attendance above tuition. Students could save hundreds of dollars by not paying for athletics, recreation, health, student centers, buses, or other items that fees finance.

Tuition for the year beginning next fall will be frozen across all schools. However, four will raise the total cost of attendance by imposing additional fees — Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern University, the University of West Georgia and Clayton State University. The cost of attendance will fall at three others as they lower fees — Kennesaw State University, Georgia College & State University and East Georgia State College.

It will be the third year out of five that tuition has remained level, Wrigley said, even though he acknowledged the budget picture is darkening with likely declines in state tax revenue. The system was originally budgeted to spend more than $9.6 billion this year.

Wrigley told regents that the system’s 26 universities have lost about $200 million so far between refunded and foregone revenue. That includes prorated fees for room and board that schools have given back. He said the system is likely to lose up to another $150 million in foregone revenue through the summer. Much of that money is likely to come out of the system’s $1 billion budget for auxiliary operations such as dormitories and food service.

Wrigley said the system could get about $125 million in federal aid through the recently passed federal rescue package. But he noted there’s a lot of uncertainty remaining about the money.

’We don’t have guidance from them about when that may be released or how it can be used,” Wrigley said.