Regents set guaranteed tuition rates with new "Fixed for Four" program

ATLANTA - The state Board of Regents on Wednesday adopted a three-tiered tuition plan for the coming school year that will raise some students' bills while freezing costs for others.

Under the "Fixed for Four" guaranteed-tuition program launched by the university system a year ago, students who enrolled for the first time last fall - mostly as freshmen - will see no change in their tuition this year.

Students who entered the system before last year will face tuition increases ranging from $40 per semester to $134.

And this year's new crop of students will pay a new tuition rate up to 15 percent higher than those who entered last year.

The new program, which guarantees students at four-year colleges and universities the same tuition throughout those four years, was begun last year with the blessing of Gov. Sonny Perdue and was among the first initiatives Chancellor Erroll Davis brought to the 35-institution system.

For students at two-year colleges, the guarantee is good for two years.

The program is aimed at giving students and parents greater predictability in college expenses while still allowing the university system to meet its commitment to cover 25 percent of instructional costs.

"Our goal is to be revenue neutral and yet meet our obligations," Davis told board members before Wednesday's vote.

Under the plan, in-state students entering the system's four research universities this fall will pay $2,248 per semester, up from $1,946 for last year's incoming group.

Those four top-tier schools include the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and the Medical College of Georgia.

In-state students entering most of the regional and state universities this year will pay $1,434 per semester, compared to $1,280 for those who entered in 2006.

Students entering Kennesaw State University, Georgia Southern University, the University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University will pay slightly more - $1,478 per semester - an adjustment designed to encourage students to consider attending less crowded schools.

Students entering state colleges this fall - including Georgia Gwinnett College - will pay $936 per semester, up from the $888 current students will be paying.

Students entering two-year colleges this fall will pay $874 per semester, up from the current rate of $802.

Also on Wednesday, the board signed off on a record $2.1 billion budget for the university system approved last month by the General Assembly.

The 2008 budget, which takes effect July 1, increases state spending on Georgia's public colleges and universities by 10.5 percent over this year, the largest jump in a dozen years.

It includes a 3 percent raise for faculty and staff, $75 million to cope with growing enrollment and $10 million in startup costs for Georgia Gwinnett, which opened in August off of Ga. Highway 316 in Lawrenceville.

Bill Bose, the university system's vice chancellor for finances, said the funds will be used to hire faculty and staff for the school's first freshman class, which will begin classes this August, and to help cover costs associated with its application for accreditation.

Lawmakers also approved $271 million for capital projects, including $28.3 million for a library at Georgia Gwinnett.

"The governor and General Assembly were extremely supportive of the university system," Davis said. "This was a good budget for us."