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No hike in tuition is welcome news to area students
Chancellor says state Regents listened to concerns about yearly rising rates
University of North Georgia students Austin Martinez, left, and Zach Martinez chat Thursday morning in the student center at the Gainesville campus. The Board of Regents this week announced tuition will not increase in the University of System of Georgia after it had been raised every year since 2002.

Georgia’s college students will pay the same tuition next year ­— for the first time in at least 14 years.

However, no one in a random sampling of University of North Georgia students Thursday at the Student Center on the Gainesville campus had heard the news announced Tuesday by the Board of Regents.

Most students reacted with a version of “that’s good news,” like Ben Delgado, a nursing student from Gainesville, when told about the decision.

UNG students will pay the same $178.40 per credit hour they currently pay. For a full-time student, tuition, including mandatory fees, will be $2,567.80; the out-of-state rate will be $7,984.60. See other tuition rates in Georgia.

UNG can expect increased money from the state for the next fiscal year, but that amount won’t be known until the budget is adopted. Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget for the University System of Georgia is $100.6 million more than the current budget.

Of that amount, $59.8 million is planned for statewide merit pay and recruitment and retention salary adjustments for state employees. Another $43.5 million would go for enrollment growth and operating costs.

UNG enrollment for fall 2015 was up 7.6 percent to 17,289 students, Kate Maine, UNG’s associated vice president of university relations, said. The Gainesville campus that semester had 7,139 students, about 10 percent more than 2014.

“Because of our increasing enrollment, one of UNG’s most significant priorities is to use any budget increase to hire additional faculty and staff to support academic and student services,” Maine said.

Most state colleges had increases of 2.5 percent in tuition in 2015. Tuition had been increased by that amount for the fourth year in a row.

The Board of Regents had approved some form of tuition increase every year since at least 2002 until Tuesday.

Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, said the decision shows the board is “listening to students, their families and legislators” who have voiced concerns about year-over-year tuition hikes in Georgia.

Brandon Davis of Dahlonega and Amber Dean of Helen ventured they might be willing to pay more in tuition ­— with conditions. Davis said more money might be worth it if the university “redid the facilities” on the Gainesville campus. He pronounced the campus facilities “garbage” now.

Dean, who is majoring in English, said she “might be all right (with an increase) if there was more parking.”

Davis, a pre-med student, greeted the news with “I didn’t even know it was being voted on.”

Austin Bishop, a junior in political science from Gwinnett County, asked “if it (tuition) will go down any?”

Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said state funding per full-time equivalent student has dropped 33.7 percent, or an inflation-adjusted 50.4 percent, since the 2001 fiscal year.

Tuition covers about 50 percent of the cost of educating students in the system, up from about 25 percent in the 1990s, Suggs said. The tuition hikes were caused by state revenue cuts to higher education, she said.

Half the students interviewed Thursday have scholarships or government grants that pay their tuition.

One student, Alexis Hernandez of Gainesville, said his tuition is paid by scholarships.

“If I were to lose (that), I probably wouldn’t be here,” he said.

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