Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the newly selected leader of the University System of Georgia (USG), visited the Tech campus this past Tuesday, July 19, to begin a series of tours at the campuses of USG universities.
“It was a pleasure to be the first institution in the [USG] to host [Huckaby],” said Institute President G. P. “Bud” Peterson.
Huckaby toured the campus in a day-long visit along with other leaders of campus. Huckaby met with the President’s cabinet, research directors, student leaders and many others. Huckaby also took tours of the new Clough Commons and the Biotechnology campus.
“The Chancellor was able to see firsthand the quality of…Tech students, faculty and staff as well as view a few of our world-class facilities,” Peterson said.
Huckaby has a long history in public service for the state of Georgia. His professional experiences include a stint as Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration at the University of Georgia from 2000-06.
He also worked alongside then-Governor Zell Miller to help create and establish the HOPE scholarship in 1993. Huckaby served as director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget at the time.
During his visit, Huckaby sat down with student leaders: Undergraduate Student Body President Elle Creel, Executive Vice President Austen Edwards, Graduate Student Body President James Black and Graduate Executive Vice President Mihir Pathak, along with Peterson.
During this meeting, Huckaby spoke of his goals and plans regarding the recent increases in tuition fees and changes made to HOPE last spring. Regarding the changes and budget cuts made to the HOPE program, Huckaby reflected on his experience and work with the changes.
“I was very much involved in the plan that they passed…I know numerous options were considered…I think the bill that came out was probably the best it was going to get,” Huckaby said.
Huckaby believes the revisions made to HOPE will be enough to ensure the stability of the program in the short term.
“The economy continues to improve and we can look toward greater funding for the state that will alleviate tuition increase. Keep your fingers crossed, the economy is gradually improving. At least it’s headed in the right direction,” Huckaby said.
One detail of the HOPE alterations that will most likely change is the percentage of tuition covered for those students who are not Zell Miller scholars.
For the 2011-12 academic year, this figure was originally set at 90 percent of the previous year’s tuition, which was $3,535 per semester for 2010-11 for students not on Fixed for Four. With the tuition increase for the coming year taken into account, 87.4 percent of the new $3,641 per-semester tuition for these students will be covered by HOPE.
That 90 percent figure is subject to change in future years, but Peterson indicated that it should not decrease substantially from the original figure.
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about it [fluctuating] from 90 [percent] to 50, but it may get to 86 or 84,” Peterson said.
Huckaby mentioned that the Board of Regents plans to further investigate other ways of creating HOPE funds besides the lottery.
“There’s some talk and consideration [of] the lottery expanding the scale [and] scope of what they call gaming…From my understanding, this would make a lot more money,” Huckaby said.
Black voiced concern over the specific ways in which the HOPE changes will affect graduate students. Specific changes and increases made to the special institution fees apply differently to undergraduate and graduate students.
“We would really like to see [special institution fees] get rolled into graduate tuition and see that fee for graduate students come down,” Black said.
Huckaby noted that this situation is complicated, but it is an issue that deserves attention. He also welcomed the help of graduate students in creating a solution.
In discussing the new engineering programs at UGA and Georgia Southern, Huckaby stated that Tech will still maintain its engineering and science reputation within Georgia.
“Tech is a premier institution. As far as I’m concerned, my office and the Board of Regents will work to maintain and sustain that. It’s too critical to the state,” Huckaby said.