Economy affecting college decisions

Choosing what college to attend is a source of stress to high school seniors this time of year. The economy is making that decision even more difficult.

Applications are up 11.5 percent to Georgia Tech from last year, up 3 percent for the University of Georgia and up about 25 percent to Georgia State University. These public schools are apparently seeing a surge in applications because they are more affordable to families trying to weather the economic downtown.

A survey conducted by The College Board, which administers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, showed that 29 percent of students from families earning less than $40,000 a year changed their college plans, most switching to a university that will give them more financial aid.

Georgia's HOPE scholarship program, which pays for tuition if a recipient maintains a 3.0 grade-point average or a B average, continues to entice students to stay in state for college.

"I would have definitely looked at out-of-state schools if not for HOPE," said Parveen Dhillon, 18, a Greenbrier High School senior who will attend the University of Georgia in its honors program this fall. HOPE for her is worth about $7,000 a year.

Jeanine Dorsey, a counselor at Greenbrier High, said she is seeing more students staying home and going to Augusta State University.

Rena Thompson, 17, a senior at Greenbrier, had wanted to go to Emory University in Atlanta but instead will attend Augusta State. The HOPE program will help pay for her education.

Rena wants to save as much money as she can so it will be easier for her to buy a house or rent an apartment when she graduates.

Some students, such as Victoria Custodio, 18, a Greenbrier senior, did not change their college plans.

"I applied to Mercer, hoping for enough financial aid, and I received it," she said.

John Klement is a junior at Greenbrier High School.

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