Photo by Ben Keyserling

The Georgia Board of Regents last week approved a change to their policy on out-of-state tuition waivers. Recipients of out-of-state waivers, which allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition, must now meets specific admissions and GPA requirements.

The change to the policy comes after a state audit last year reviewed the process by which these waivers were issued.

“To determine the extent to which USG institutions are using the waiver for highly academically qualified non-resident students, we reviewed the academic qualifications of [freshmen] receiving International and Superior Out-of-State Student waivers in the fall 2012 semester,” the report states.

According to the report, only 44 percent of students had a high school GPA above the freshman average at their institution and only 49 percent had an SAT score above average. The new policy requires that students who receive out of state waivers must  score within the top half of matriculating students to their institution, determined by academic criteria including GPA and standardized test scores.

The University System of Georgia says that the policy changes are in part a response to the audit to change some parts of the policy that haven’t been changed in 30 years and to account for some new realities including an increasing number of veterans.

“Our policy changes are designed to enhance accountability over our waiver process, consistent with goal 3 of our strategic plan, i.e., accountability and efficiency,” said John Millsaps, Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications. “We should be able to define why we are giving certain students waivers and have some level of accountability over maintaining waivers—our policy changes provides some consistency along these lines and are designed to ensure that students receiving waivers are those likely to succeed in our System.”

It has been suggested by some that these tuition waivers have been controversial within the state government.

“I understand from some of the executive leadership team that either our governor, our legislature or regents… have either been discussing in private or threatening us that, given that their belief is that all we’re doing is waiving this tuition for students who would otherwise be very willing to pay it,” said Dr. Paul Kohn, Vice Provost for Enrollment Services. “The threat is, and I’m the one who’s characterizing it as a threat, [is] that they would cut our budget next year in an amount equal to how much foregone tuition revenue we’ve given away.”

According to the report, in Fall 2012, 815 out-of-state students received waivers. This includes both the discretionary “Superior Out-of-State Students” category as well as the mandatory waivers such as those given to U.S. veterans and University System employees. In the same year, the waivers cost the institute approximately $4.8 million on “Superior Out-of-State Students.”