Tuition is going up for Georgia students at all 31 state colleges and universities under a budget plan approved Tuesday by the state Board of Regents, including the largest increase of $372 more per semester for Georgia Tech undergraduates.
Tuition costs have increased every year since at least 2002 at Georgia's state campuses. While the Board of Regents kept the rate of tuition increases at 2.5 percent for 27 campuses, students at the system's four research universities will see costs increase more. The increase ranges from about $32 at state colleges to about $85 at Georgia College and State University per semester.
Georgia Tech's tuition will increase by 9 percent, bringing the per semester cost to about $4,500. Students at the University of Georgia will pay 7 percent more each semester, adding $281 to their tuition. At Georgia Regents University in Augusta and Georgia State University in Atlanta, students will pay 4 percent more, about $150 per semester.
The board also approved various student fees, including a $3 sustainability fee at Georgia State and a $100 wellness center fee at Bainbridge State College.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby said lower state support for the system contributes to the annual tuition increases. State funding and tuition contribute about 50% each toward operating costs. The system has to control its own expenses too, he said.
"Ideally, we'd love to get to the point where for a couple of years we'd have no increase," Huckaby said. "We're striving for that, but we're not there yet."
Small increases can make a big difference for college students taking out loans to afford an education, said Bailli Douthitt, a sophomore studying early childhood education at North Georgia State's Dahlonega campus. Douthitt said she receives a state scholarship to cover her tuition but worries for friends who will pay more next fall.
"Just adding everything up, with living expenses and tuition, college is already so expensive," she said.
The 2015 state budget approved by lawmakers and awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal's signature increased funding for the university system by about $55.9 million. The budget also increased state funding for the HOPE Scholarship program by about 3 percent.
The system tuition increase will exceed that boost by about $4 or $5 million because of the high number of scholarship recipients who attend the four research universities, said John Brown, the system's vice chancellor fiscal affairs and treasurer.
There was no discussion of the increases among board members at Tuesday's meeting on the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega campus. The board typically meets in Atlanta but holds its April and October meetings on campuses around the state.
System officials said the average tuition at Georgia state colleges and universities still is less than the average for surrounding states' colleges and universities, including Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.