Technical college students can expect a slight increase in tuition rates beginning this fall, but there are also more available financial aid opportunities.
The Technical College System of Georgia approved a $4 increase per credit hour — from $85 to $89.
For a full-time, 15-hour credit load, it’s a $60 increase from $1,275 to $1,335 per semester. And that extra $4 per hour adds up — the technical system anticipates an extra $8 million.
Lanier Technical College President Ray Perren estimated the school stands to gain around $400,000 from the tuition increase.
“We’ve already made plans to invest in more full-time faculty to help address the growing enrollment that we have,” he said. “And also, just some of the labs that we intend to upgrade with this.”
Officials say raising tuition rates is imperative as enrollment regresses from a high point of only a few years ago.
The technical system peaked in 2010 with 191,000 students enrolled; that number dropped to 151,000 last school year. System spokesman Mike Light said a slight increase is anticipated this year, mostly due to more financial aid for students.
“We know a lot of our students are going to be very careful with their dollars,” Light said. “But there are plenty of opportunities or ways to cover that $60 for the vast majority of it. Our colleges have been working hand in hand with the students, showing them they have those options available, and other forms of assistance that the colleges themselves can help provide.”
There are multiple new financial aid options this year. For example, technical college students may now apply for a loan with a 1 percent interest rate through the Georgia Student Finance Commission. The loan is forgiven if they graduate with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
“Let’s say I’m an older student who is not fresh out of high school,” Light said.
“But I want to go back to college and I don’t have the money to do it. What could happen is I could qualify for the low-interest loan, get that and as long as I kept a 3.5 GPA ... the loan would be forgiven.”
Officials say this new option is the motivation many will need to do better in school.
“Most of our students do well, but the average GPA of a graduate is somewhere in the 3.3-3.5 range,” Perren said. “A lot of our students will qualify to have that loan forgiven.”
Also beginning in the fall is the new Zell Miller HOPE Grant, which will pay 100 percent of tuition for students maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA in certificate and diploma programs. Some students who qualify for the loan may switch to this grant after a semester.
There’s also the general HOPE Grant, which pays slightly more than 70 percent of tuition; many may also qualify for the federal Pell Grant.
Another new grant provides a supplement for students enrolled in key, high-demand programs such as practical nursing, early childhood care and education, commercial truck driving, welding, health care technologies, diesel mechanic and information technology.
Officials said the two grants, combined, would cover all tuition costs as well as some other fees.
“Attending Lanier Tech or any of Georgia’s technical colleges is one of the best career investments a person can make,” Perren said. “We offer hands-on instruction delivered by business- and industry-experienced faculty, and the bottom line is we guarantee our graduates.
“It’s certainly a cost to go to this college or any other college, but we guarantee our graduates are going to be job-ready when they leave us.”