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Lawmaker trying to make tuition part of the equation
Albany representative wants Georgia General Assembly vote on hikes
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One lawmaker is so against tuition hikes that he hopes to change the Georgia Constitution to limit future tuition increases.

House Resolution 383, introduced by Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Albany, proposes that any Board of Regents approved increase in the University System of Georgia that exceeds the rate of inflation would need to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

"We've seen tuition increased by nearly 250 percent just over the last 10 years," Rynders said. "I think when you start talking about the HOPE scholarship, the two things you have to look at are the number of students receiving the HOPE and tuition.

"I wanted to make sure that the tuition part of the equation was considered."

Rynders believes high costs are a deterrent to students attending college.

"I think across the board, tuition increases disproportionately affects students from economically disadvantaged areas that you find in urban areas and many rural parts of the state," Rynders said.

"When two-thirds of our students lose the HOPE scholarship, I wonder if they can't afford to stay in college after that because of high tuition. I think we need to have that discussion."

Philip Wilheit of Gainesville, who was recently appointed to the Board of Regents, said he is against the resolution.

"There's a reason that there's a separation between the political bodies and the regents," Wilheit said.

"I don't think long term that would be in the best interest of the University System of Georgia to have politicos setting tuition or being involved in that."

Wilheit said while he is new, he believes the Board of Regents has so far acted in the best interest of a rapidly expanding university system.

"With a growing system like we have, from what I have seen, the regents have been very responsible in what they have done as far as tuition increases," Wilheit said. "There's a group out there that seems to think they raise tuition any time they want because it's covered by the HOPE scholarship. That really wasn't the case. The increases that we had were really very competitive with what the rest of the country was doing."

Wilheit said he is "100 percent supportive" of the HOPE scholarship overhaul approved in the House Tuesday, which would reduce the percentage of tuition costs the lottery-funded scholarship will cover from 100 to 90 percent.

"Hopefully we'll all be able to cut back a little and get a bigger bang for our buck than we have been in the past," Wilheit said.

Rynders' resolution will require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate to put the question of a constitutional amendment before voters in November 2012.

But Rynders is confident in his resolution.

"I'm optimistic. I'm over 100 signatures right now," Rynders said. "I'm pleased to have the support of the entire Hall County delegation."