U.S. Sen. David Perdue had harsh words for President Obama after Obama’s visit to Georgia Tech earlier this month. The president had come to highlight the importance of education and his administration’s efforts to make college more affordable, but Perdue was having none of it.
“It’s ironic that President Obama continues to say that something must be done about higher education,” Perdue, a Georgia Tech graduate, said in a release. “On his watch, college costs have skyrocketed. We can all agree that college should be more accessible, and we cannot continue to burden our children with more debt, but President Obama’s strategy won’t work.”
In his statement, Perdue went on to stress that the problem has to be resolved at the state level, not by the federal government. “Yellow Jackets know that Georgia-based problems should be fixed with Georgia-based solutions,” he said.
So let’s take up that challenge. Let’s see how decisions made at the state level here in Georgia might have influenced both the cost of higher education as well as the debt-load level that Georgia students are forced to take on in order to get a college degree:
- Because of budget decisions made by our state Legislature, state funding of the University System of Georgia was slashed by $2,600 per college student between 2008 and 2013, according to data compiled by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Until recently, state funding covered 75 percent of the cost of a college education; today, it covers 50 percent of that cost.
- Consequently, in-state tuition at Georgia universities has skyrocketed. Since 2009, tuition and mandatory fees at Perdue’s alma mater of Georgia Tech have increased from $3,853 per semester to $5,697, an increase of 67 percent in a five-year period.
- HOPE scholarships, which once paid 100 percent of tuition and helped to pay books and fees as well, have been cut significantly. Books and fees are no longer covered at all, and at Georgia Tech, HOPE now covers just 75 percent of tuition. Overall, HOPE now covers the cost of just 59 percent of tuition and fees at Georgia Tech, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. At the University of Georgia, HOPE now covers just 62 percent of tuition and fees.
- Thanks to those and other trends, the amount paid out of pocket in tuition and fees by Georgia college students rose by an average of 93.9 percent between 2008 and 2013, the second highest increase in the country and almost four times the national average, according to the SHEEOA report.
- Georgia has also become a hotbed of for-profit proprietary colleges, an industry that has a long and scandalous history of charging high fees for questionable instruction and too often leaves its “graduates” to enter the workforce with diplomas with little value and a hefty college-loan debt to repay. As an AJC investigation documented in August, the state agency created to regulate such schools, the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission, has done little or nothing to protect Georgians from such programs.
Add it all together, and the results cannot be surprising. Citing data released by the White House, WABE reports that Georgians struggle under the highest average student loan debt of any state in the country, at $30,433 per borrower.
Somehow, that too must be Obama’s fault.