Students speak out on budget reductions

As the University System of Georgia (USG) continues to balance its budget, students have been left wondering how much their schools will be changed and, perhaps more worriedly, how much they will have to pay to continue their educations.

In a proposal submitted to the Chancellor of the USG on Feb. 27, the public universities of Ga. submitted outlines of how they would make cuts to total $385 million across the system, assuming no tuition increases were made.

Overall, Tech’s share of the deficit comes out to $38 million. In order to make this up, several changes were proposed by the Institute. Among them were the elimination of 452 full and part time positions, the elimination of 540 course section offerings and reducing library hours by 42 percent.

In order to completely make up the deficit without making cuts, a 77 percent increase in tuition rates would be necessary across the state. For out-of-state students, this amounts to an increase from the Fall 2009 rate of $24,480 to a new rate of $42,975 per year.

Students are, understandably, concerned over how an increase in tuition would affect their school, their studies and their wallets. On Monday, Mar. 15, students from Ga. Universities converged on the capitol to protest education budget cuts and tuition hikes, and in the following weeks students voiced their opinions about the proposed budget solutions.

The event was originally organized by SGA President Alina Stastikevicius and SGA presidents from the other 34 schools in the USG. While at the protest, student government associations met with legislators to discuss their concerns over the proposed cuts. More on the event can be found .

Michael Hodgson, second-year AE, said “If the tuition had been higher, I would have had a very different educational experience with more stress and less focus…I would, almost without a doubt, have chosen to attend one of Georgia Tech’s competitor schools.”

Hodgson is also concerned that other students would make similar decisions. He said, “Tech needs to be careful—it is already an expensive school for out of state students. If the tuition increases too much, Tech will price itself out of the market and potentially lose some of its national and global prestige in the loss of high-achieving students from other states and nations.”

Students on the verge of getting out say the same when looking back on their education.

Katie Collins, 4th year CS, said “My family cannot afford to support me financially, so I have relied on a combination of many scholarships and grants to get me through school…I’m not comfortable funding education entirely through loans, so I would have been forced to attend more affordable community college or a potentially sub-par college that would award me a full scholarship.”

Collins also feels that these increases would severely limit Tech’s ability to help students with financial needs. She said, “If tuition was increased, I would be concerned about the ability of programs like the HOPE scholarship and Tech Promise to help students with financial needs. If these programs didn’t exist, or were severely reduced, I would not be at Tech right now.”

Other students worry that, in addition to not attracting out-of-state students, tuition hikes might actually drive Ga. students to colleges outside of the state. Mike Donohue, second-year Public Policy, isn’t so worried about how a tuition hike would affect him, but still worries how it would affect education in the state.

Donohue said, “Assuming HOPE remains funded for the next two years, I won’t be affected at all by the tuition increases. However, I’m worried that too severe of an increase will cause future in-state students to choose to go out of state, decreasing Ga’s skilled human capital, [which] it badly needs.”

Other students seem to be concerned about the potential absence of tools for students’ success if the budget cuts are severe.

“I think it is sad that we even consider having to take away from education and our tools for success,” first-year MGT Ryan Yan said.

The legislature will vote on the issue towards the end of the semester, meaning the situation is by no means set in stone. Some students worry that the late nature of these changes will unfairly impact new students come this fall.

As most graduating high school students will have already accepted offers from colleges by this time, some students feel that new college students might be making decisions based off of inaccurate information.