Originally created 03/31/04

Increase amount is unknown



ATLANTA - University officials throughout the state remained tight-lipped Tuesday over how high tuition increases at the state's largest universities could go this year.

Earlier this month, University of Georgia Provost Arnett Mace told an Atlanta newspaper he would like to see the state Board of Regents make "as large an increase as possible" in tuition to offset a potential loss of funding from the Georgia Legislature.

The Regents, who oversee the state's 34 public colleges and universities, are scheduled to make tuition adjustments during their April 20-21 meetings.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mace stood by his previous statement, but he declined to say what kind of price tag students might face when classes resume in August.

"I have not had any conversation directly with (University System Chancellor Tom Meredith) or the board relative to the amount of tuition," Mr. Mace said. "At this point, this is an unknown."

The Regents set tuition, but schools can request increases as part of their budget submissions, said Mike Miller, the vice president for enrollment and student services at Medical College of Georgia.

"I do not know if a tuition increase is included in the budget request," which will come later, Dr. Miller said.

In an interview earlier this month about potential budget cuts next year, MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said tuition increases aren't a great source of revenue for the school because it has less than 2,100 students.

"The impact of a tuition change is small compared (with larger universities)," Dr. Rahn said.

Like other top administrators contacted Tuesday, Mr. Mace said he was hesitant to discuss the possible range of tuition hikes because state lawmakers have yet to finalize the university system budget for the 2005 fiscal year which begins July 1.

"We do not know what appropriation will be made by the General Assembly. Until we know those numbers, it is difficult for me to say ... it's going to be a difficult year" without tuition increases, Mr. Mace explained.

Other schools also are taking a wait-and-see approach, pinning their next move on the Legislature's final budget numbers.

Georgia State University Provost Ron Henry said in early March his school in downtown Atlanta would need at least a 10 percent increase in tuition to avoid changes in service.

However, a spokeswoman said Tuesday that Mr. Henry doesn't have any information on tuition increases, adding that the Regents make the ultimate decision.

Regents spokeswoman Arlethia Perry-Johnson said the board will listen to the suggestions made by the individual school administrators, but it will not take orders from universities on how to change tuition.

"The tuition-setting responsibility is one that sits here at the Board of Regents, and that is a responsibility that we take very seriously to continue to maintain access and affordability for all Georgians," Ms. Perry-Johnson said.

For schools such as Georgia State and UGA, a 10 percent increase in tuition equals nearly $160 more each semester for undergraduate students.

The increase would be steeper for students pursuing advanced degrees, resulting in a $360 increase per semester for in-state tuition at the UGA School of Law.

The General Assembly meets today for the 38th day of its 40-day session and is expected to finalize its higher education budget soon.

Some university students said Tuesday they oppose increasing tuition rates each time the university system faces a funding shortfall.

"I think it's a big mistake. A lot of people can't afford it," said Georgia State biology major Candace Clinton of Waynesboro, pointing out that tuition at the state's largest universities increased 15 percent in 2003.

Reach Brian Basinger at (404) 589-8424

or brian.basinger@morris.com.