Mike Klein Online

Georgia Higher Ed Still a Good Deal; Many HOPE Students Underachieve

Mike Klein

Colleges like ice cream come in many flavors and specialties.  Some cost more than others and way out there you have gelato which costs more per gallon than gasoline.

Recent headlines make it seem like Georgia higher education carries gelato pricing.  HOPE scholarship cuts dominated headlines before this week when higher university system tuition and fees were announced for next year.   A new Associated Press study released this week pointed to financial problems as the biggest reason students consider dropping out of college.

Despite all that gloom, national data comparisons conclusively show that Georgia students are still getting a lot of value for their education dollars, even if they have to dig somewhat deeper into their wallets.  But evidence also demonstrates many HOPE scholars squander their opportunity to receive quality educations with substantial scholarship assistance.

First, let’s discuss how Georgia‘s new higher education tuition and fees compare nationally.

College Board data for this year reports public four-year schools average $7,605 and two-year schools average $2,713 in tuition and fees. The Board says nearly half (47%) of all full-time students nationally pay $9,000 or less per year for tuition and fees.  All national and Georgia data is for in-state resident students; out of state students pay significantly higher tuition.

Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Health Sciences University (formerly the Medical College of Georgia) will charge the state’s most expensive tuition and fees next year — $8,182 per year at Georgia, Georgia State and GHSU. Georgia Tech will be $200 higher.  Next year tuition and fee levels still compare favorably with College Board national data.

All other Georgia state-supported universities and two-year colleges will have lower total tuition and fees.  Again, if you look at the College Board’s $7,605 tuition and fees average cost per year at four-year schools, comparable numbers will become $6,234 at Kennesaw State and five other universities and $4,901 at Albany State and six other universities. These are good deals.

Full-time annual student tuition and fees will total $3,276 at seven-of-eight four-year colleges with slightly higher charges at Georgia Gwinnett College.  Annual tuition at all eight two-year colleges will be $2,970. Yes, higher than current charges but favorable to national averages.

The Associated Press higher education costs poll published Wednesday found 60% of students nationwide rely on loans, two-thirds work part-time, 60% have parental support and 60% have scholarships. The AP reported that average student loan debt exceeds $23,000. The poll was conducted by Stanford University with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Georgia HOPE scholarship changes were made for financial reasons. HOPE has been drawing down its reserves and the entire balance could have been wiped out next year. That was the reason to reduce the scholarship which will fund 87.4% of tuition for most students next fall.

There has been no small measure of angst about changes to HOPE, tuition and fees.  But evidence also clearly demonstrates thousands of Georgia students squander their scholarship opportunity. They do not maintain their grades so they lose their aid. Nearly two-thirds who start with HOPE lose it.   More than half lose it after one year.

The University System of Georgia maintains records on every HOPE student. The newest data covers students who were fall 2003 freshmen and it tracks them through spring 2009.

** 24,415 students began fall 2003 classes as HOPE freshmen.

** 13,136 students (53.8%) lost HOPE after 30 academic hours (one year).

** 2,338 more students (9.5%) lost HOPE after 60 academic hours (two years).

** 1,119 more students (4.5%) lost HOPE after 90 academic hours (three years).

** 7,253 graduates (29.7%) who began with HOPE scholarships kept the financial assistance and graduated within six years after their initial university system enrollment in fall 2003.

** Another 1,482 graduates (6% of the 2003 freshman class) lost HOPE but regained the scholarship or they were initially ineligible but earned HOPE by their grade point averages.

** Total: 24,415 HOPE eligible freshmen, just 8,735 HOPE graduates (35.7%) within six years.

Even at somewhat higher prices, Georgia higher education is a solid investment.  But thousands of students who could receive HOPE educations are kicking it down the road.  That should be the focus of the next conversation.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

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April 21, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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