The state technical college board voted Thursday to increase tuition by $10 per credit hour, from $75 to $85. That means a full 15-hour course load will increase $150, from $1,125 to $1,275.
The board also added a new $50 “institutional fee” per semester, starting in January, and a $50 fee for each online course, starting in the fall, 2013. This means students will pay an average of $223 in fees, beginning this spring.
“Even with the tuition increase, our technical college education is one of the best deals going anywhere in education, because graduates get credentials they can put to work immediately,” said Dawn Cook, WGTC’s vice president of institutional advancement. “We certainly understand the economic realities facing our students, many who are in school to get the skills they need to better provide for themselves and their families.”
Cook said WGTC currently offers many forms of financial assistance to help students deal with the costs of higher education.
“We’ll continue to look for creative ways to help our students deal with their costs,” she said.
The increases push the average cost of attendance, including books, to about $2,000 per semester. That’s more than twice what qualifying students can receive from HOPE grants. Those awards, funded by the Georgia Lottery, pay $60.75 per credit hour.
About 75 percent of Georgia technical college students receive the HOPE grants, a percentage that’s likely to decrease since 2011 legislative changes require HOPE grant recipients to maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Previously, there were no minimum GPA requirements, unlike the grade requirements for recipients of HOPE scholarships for four-year colleges and universities.
Lawmakers said the new HOPE requirements were necessary to reduce overall program costs. Gov. Nathan Deal received bipartisan support in 2011 to make changes, including reduced payouts, to prevent the popular scholarship fund from running out of money.
Many students can reduce their costs if they qualify for a federal Pell grant, which is awarded based on financial need. Last year, more than half the 170,000 technical college students used Pell grants.
“A tuition and fee increase was made necessary by the rising expenses to deliver our programs and lower state appropriations,” Ron Jackson, Technical College System of Georgia, said Thursday. “A state technical college education remains an excellent value, compared to the cost, yet we fully understand the impact that any additional expense has on our students. The colleges will do all that they can to provide sources of financial assistance to those who need it most. We’re committed to seeing that all our students get the opportunity they deserve to be a part of Georgia’s 21st Century workforce.”
The 25 technical colleges in Georgia offer more than 600 certificate, diploma and two-year associate degree programs. In 2012, the colleges delivered 2.7 million credit hours of instruction to 170,000 students. They served 85,000 students online through the system’s Georgia Virtual Technical Connection.