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Families, students will welcome tuition freeze

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I don't know if I've ever come right out and said thank you to my parents for the help they gave me paying for my college education, but let me do so now.

While I'm at it, let me go ahead and thank them for not letting me turn to the loan sharks who claim to be helping you get a degree and in the end leave you with tens of thousands of dollars in debt that, according to "60 Minutes," is becoming next to impossible for graduates to pay off. Not to mention the fact that the student loan sharks are being investigated for wrongdoing.

I went to college before the HOPE scholarship, when you basically had two choices: get a loan or pay for it yourself.

I had saved a little in high school, but not nearly enough. (It was pretty much gone after my first quarter there.) So I worked for a big chunk of the time I attended the University of Georgia. I paid some of the expenses, and my parents worked very hard to pay for the rest, which was most of it. I'm humbled by and thankful for the help they gave me, especially knowing the tuition raise that came like clockwork every year made it that much more difficult.

When I was in school it was at least 4 percent a year, every year. Tuition went up, and fees went up. The university didn't seem to change that much then. It's changed a lot since, so I guess I know where each year's 4 percent went.

But the point is, if you don't have a free ride, a college education is already nearly out of reach for a lot of people. The costs of tuition, room and board, books, transportation, etc. keep rising and more people find themselves priced out of a college degree.

That's why the new program adopted this week by the state Board of Regents is something that's long overdue.

The "Fixed for Four" plan will freeze most student's tuition for the four years they attend a state university. With tuition frozen, students and their parents will have better luck planning their finances. It's a lot easier to save when you know how much to save, something that wasn't always possible prior to "Fixed for Four."

Of course, you always have to pay the piper somehow, so the Regents are paying for the freeze and their record $2 billion budget by jacking up the tuition for new students. College is still going to get more expensive, just not for everyone at the same time, and that's a positive development.

The burdens on the system increase every year as the number of students applying to state colleges and universities continues to rise. Plus, quality professors, equipment and facilities all come with a price tag. So the system needs money.

But putting a further squeeze on families already struggling to improve their children's future becomes a deterrent for some and a complete roadblock for others. We all know people who only have two years of college because they had to quit when they couldn't afford it anymore.

This program is much-needed relief for families trying to cover the cost of higher education. The more steps we take toward eliminating the need for the "some college" choice on a job application the better. "Fixed for Four" is a big one in the right direction.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.