The board, which met on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University, also extended for another year a “special mandatory fee” that was originally to have lasted only one year to tide the state’s 35 public colleges and universities over during cuts in the state budget after the recession. It began in 2009 and has been renewed every year.
Undergraduate tuition will rise 2.5 percent at all schools, except three research institutions that will see a bigger jump. The increase will be 3.5 percent at Georgia State University, 5 percent at the University of Georgia and 6 percent at Georgia Tech.
A higher increase at the research schools is to get them closer to the average charged by similar state schools in other parts of the country.
While renewing the mandatory fee, the board granted some exemptions. Active-duty military get a 100 percent exemption while students taking fewer than five hours per semester get half off. Also exempt will be students who attend college while still in high school. Students enrolled in more than one college will only pay the fee once.
The fee generates $120 million yearly, according to John Brown, the vice chancellor for fiscal affairs.
“We are not at a point where we want to put the special institution fee in policy for good,” he said. “We hope there will be a day when we can roll that back. ... If we sunset the special institution fee at this point, that would put the system in a bad way.”
The April meeting is the traditional time for budget adjustments, including changes in fees and tuition because it’s the first regular meeting after the legislature passes the next year’s appropriation.
The General Assembly boosted what it allocated to the University System’s 35 public colleges and universities by $89 million or 5.16 percent and provided funds for the students who have enrolled since the last state budget at the full amount in the formula in state law for per-student appropriations. However, that didn’t come close to restoring all of the cuts dealt every year since the last recession which reduced the base for the increase.
Most observers expected a tuition bump, and University of Georgia President Michael Adams had been quoted as predicting one. Experts estimate the inflation rate for all goods and services in the overall economy is 2 percent, which is less than the tuition hike and the appropriations boost.
University System officials have also noted often that tuition at Georgia’s public schools are lower than the state schools in neighboring states and nationally. They say Georgia students and parents get a bargain and express their desire to get closer to the average as a way to reflect the prestige they say Georgia institutions deserve.
“They need to be more in the arena of their peer institutions,” Brown said.
Still, UGA and Georgia State administrators asked to hold the boost for out-of-state students to 1 percent to keep them competitive.
Graduate tuition will also increase from 3 to 6 percent, depending on the program. The variation is to try to keep the tuition competitive.
Next month, the board will consider pay increases for the presidents of those colleges, although indications suggest raises would be few and small.