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CSU students uneasy about tuition increase

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University freshman, Donique Hanse, was outspoken Wednesday in her outrage over a tuition increase approved by the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents earlier this week.

"That's crazy," said Hanse, a nursing student from College Park. "College is expensive enough already. We're already taking out loans to pay for college, and now, we're going to take out additional loans."

The regents approved a 3 percent tuition increase for all colleges and universities in the state on Tuesday, amid concerns about tight budgets for higher education, according to an university system news release.

Institutional fees that students have to pay are also going up, as part of the regents' decision.

The two actions equal a 9 percent increase in the cost to attend college, according to the university system statement. As a result, Clayton State students will have to pay $164 more per semester to attend the Morrow-based school, beginning in the fall.

Responses to the increase from students ranged from cautious understanding, to quiet reservation, to outright anger, on Wednesday. CSU students will see their tuition increase by $64, to $2,201, according to the statement from the university, which also shows that the school's institutional fee will go up by $100 per semester, rising to $250 per semester.

The increases, however, fall far below the 35 percent tuition and fee increase that would have been needed to cover budget shortfalls in the university system, according to the system's statement.

"The state, the university system, students and parents all continue to see very tight budgets, and our tuition proposal reflects these realities," said University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, Jr., in a written statement to explain the rationale behind the increases. "We wanted a balanced strategy that meets the academic needs of our students, while maintaining access and affordability."

Lakisha Denley, a junior nursing major from Atlanta, said higher tuition will mean less money for her to cover cost-of-living expenses, but she was not shocked by the news about the increases. "With the current [economic] state, everything is increasing, so I'm not surprised tuition is increasing as well," she said.

Anthony Delevoe, a junior health and fitness management major from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he did not think the increases were too steep, but he added, "I hope I graduate before they go up again."

Hanse, meanwhile, said she believes it will affect her financial aid, because she is already taking out loans to pay for her existing college costs, and will need to get additional money to cover the increases. She said that with tuition, fees, housing costs and meal-plan costs, she has to pay approximately $7,000 per semester to attend Clayton State -- and she added that does not include textbooks.

The tuition and fee increase come on top of changes the Georgia General Assembly made to the HOPE scholarship program this spring, to ward off the possible threat of the lottery-funded program running out of money.

The university system's news release said those changes reduced how much of a student's college costs the scholarship will cover, from 100 percent, to 90 percent of fiscal year 2011 costs, for all but the top-achieving students in the state [who will keep the 100 percent HOPE re-imbursements].

With the tuition and fee increases, HOPE will now cover 87.4 percent of college costs for most students who receive the scholarship, according to the university system.

"[The university system] wanted to maintain the HOPE Scholarship payment for FY12 [fiscal year 2012] tuition as close to 90 percent of the FY11 [fiscal year 2011] tuition rate as possible," said Usha Ramachandran, the system's chief financial officer.

Clayton State Director of Financial Aid Pat Barton said higher tuition and fees, and less money coming from HOPE scholarships, could lead to a greater dependence, among Georgia college students, on other types of financial aid, including grants, loans and other scholarships.

"Now that it's [tuition] being increased, and changes are being made to HOPE, I could see more students seeking financial aid to help pay for their education," Barton said.

Barton stressed that changes to tuition costs, and fee increases will not affect a student's eligibility for financial aid. "They will still have to meet the same criteria," she said. She said any Clayton State student, who has questions about the tuition changes and financial aid, can contact her office, by calling (678) 466-4185.

Anyone seeking additional information about how much tuition and fees will increase at other public colleges and universities across the state, can log onto the university system's web site, at www.usg.edu/.