Report: States Should Restore Funding To Public Colleges And Universities

In this Saturday, May 31, 2014 photo, members of the graduating class and faculty attend the SCAD Commencement in Atlanta. On Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, the College Board said the average cost of attending college crept up again in 2014. (AP Photo/John Amis)

John Amis / Associated Press

Most states, including Georgia, have cut funding to public colleges and universities since the recession. As a result, many schools have had to raise tuition rates.

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Now, a new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says fewer students will be able to go to college if states don’t stop the trend.

According to the study, tuition at Georgia’s public schools has increased 75 percent since 2008. (Adjusted for inflation.)

In January, lawmakers asked University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley about Georgia’s rising tuition. He said officials have tried to keep cost increases low.

“Tuition in Georgia, compared to peer states, I think is 24-25 percent less,” Wrigley said, referencing a state audit.

Michael Mitchell, who co-authored the CBPP report, said Georgia didn’t cut per-pupil funding as much as some states did.

“When we look at the per-student funding changes in Georgia, they are around average with what we see nationally,” he said. “So, there are a drastic number of states, especially Southern states, that actually have seen much larger per-student cuts than Georgia has.”

But, he says, Georgia had lower tuition rates to start with. So, a 75 percent jump is still a lot for some families to bear.

“For the student in Georgia that’s trying to afford college, (the fact that other states charge more) is not necessarily a comforting narrative to hear,” Mitchell said.

To help families, especially those in low-income areas, afford tuition, Mitchell suggests states put more money toward colleges and offer strong financial aid programs.