In response to a $356 million shortfall, the Board of Regents (BoR) voted on Tuesday to raise tuition at Tech by $106 per semester and the Special Institutional Fee, also known as the Academic Excellence Fee, by $350 per semester. The tuition increase will not affect those students who entered Tech in Fall 2008 and are under the Fixed for Four tuition plan. It will also not affect those students who are Zell Miller scholars and paid by the HOPE scholarship. All graduate and undergraduate students will be affected by the fee increase, and those who are not Zell Miller scholars will see an increase as their HOPE payout is reduced to 90 percent of 2010-2011 tuition levels.
With the tuition and fee increases, in-state undergraduates not on Fixed for Four will pay $3641 per semester, and out-of-state undergraduates will pay $12,746. The Special Institutional Fee (previously known as the Academic Excellence Fee) will be $544 per semester, up from $194. Other research universities will pay an extra $250 per semester in fees. The BoR justified the higher increase for Tech by saying that Institute enrolls fewer students than the other universities and that the technical programs cost more to run. This increase will raise the amount for mandatory fees to $1185. The total amount for Spring 2011 was $823.
“I think the decision of a higher fee at Georgia Tech is the result of a market comparison….When you compare the different institutions and see where they are in terms of tuition and fees, Georgia Tech is at 75 percent of its peer institutions,” said Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. “We’re raising tuition because we’re trying to maintain the quality of the programs.”
Usha Ramachandran, vice chancellor for fiscal affairs, said that the BoR attempted to keep the overall increase under 10 percent, ensure that the HOPE scholarship pays close to 90 percent of tuition and maintain the academic excellence of the University System of Georgia. The increases result in a nine percent increase in tuition and fees for University System students and will mean HOPE pays for 87.4 percent of tuition.
“We wanted a balanced strategy that meets the academic needs of our students while maintaining access and affordability,” said USG Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. in a press release.
The BoR created the $100 Special Institutional Fee in Spring 2009 to cover revenue shortfalls due to the recession, setting it to expire after one semester. The BoR reinstituted the fee in Fall 2009 and doubled it to $200 in Spring of 2010, fixing an expiration date of Summer 2012.
“I would not make the assumption that because of the sunset those fees will totally go away as opposed to being rolled into tuition or some new set of fees. The reality is costs continue to go up, our support from the legislature has continued to decline….If we are to maintain quality for all students we need additional resources,” Davis said.
Graduates, who will pay for over 75 percent of the increase out of their stipends, which are usually small, spoke strongly against the fee increases.
“I view them as shameful and detrimental to the graduate body,” said Anthony Baldridge, graduate student body president. “This represents about a five percent pay cut for the average graduate student for the extra fee.”
James Black, graduate student body president-elect and ME grad student, likewise spoke against the fees.
“The politics of the situation prevailed and the [BoR] increased tuition revenue through the fee. I actually think the [BoR] mandated ‘Institutional’ Fee is a misnomer and should be called what it really is: the ‘Tuition’ Fee,” Black said in an email.
Undergraduate Student Body President Corey Boone said he was disappointed in the fee increase but relieved by the relatively small increase in tuition.
“I think that the work that Elle [Creel, director of external affairs], Kristen [Greig, Student Lobby Board chair], and I have done throughout the year to cultivate relationships [with the BoR] was integral in making sure that tuition didn’t go up more than it did,” Boone said.