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Guest column: Higher education still affordable in Ga.

POSTED: May 6, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Students and parents are understandably concerned about the changes in the HOPE scholarship and the rise, though modest, in tuition and fees for the colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia.

Still, compared with national costs, a college education in Georgia is more affordable than in most states. Within the University System, there are several options for students to get a great education at differing costs.

The two-year and state colleges represent the most affordable approach to beginning a college career while obtaining a solid academic foundation that serves students well when they transfer.

The term "state college" in the University System, describes a campus that provides both a two-year curriculum for those who want to transfer as well as select baccalaureate degrees. This is the mission of Gainesville State College as it serves primarily the students of Northeast Georgia.

Tuition for all institutions in the University System will increase by 3 percent. This means that a full-time student taking 12 hours would pay $1,116 per semester in tuition at Gainesville State. A HOPE scholar would pay about $145 in tuition while the Zell Miller HOPE scholar would pay no tuition.

The big differential comes with fees; beginning in fall, all students, including HOPE scholars will pay all fees out of pocket. Gainesville State has intentionally kept its fees low while maintaining quality education and services to students.

For the coming year, fees at GSC will be less than $400, which is considerably less than other colleges and universities in our service area.

This extra savings doesn't take into account the money that students save by living at home for an extra year or two while attending college.

To receive an affordable education does not mean sacrificing academic quality. As with most two-year and state colleges, Gainesville State has kept its classes small, usually between 25 and 30 students, and has fully qualified faculty, not graduate assistants.

We know from system reports that our students do well academically after transfer. GSC sends more transfers to the University of Georgia and North Georgia than any other institution.

In addition, Gainesville State participates in the Regents Engineering Transfer Program, which allows students to begin at GSC and have guaranteed transfer to Georgia Tech if they maintain acceptable grades.
GSC students also transfer with success to private universities such at Brenau and Emory.

It is clear that two-year and state colleges are no longer just for students who can't get into a university. Today, they are the logical choice for anyone who wants a quality education minus high costs and debt.

Martha T. Nesbitt is president of Gainesville State College in Oakwood.



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