Tuition and the Value of a Georgia Tech Degree
May 4, 2011
To the students of Georgia Tech:
During the past month, I have met several times with representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student populations. They have shared their concerns regarding the increased tuition and special fees approved by the Board of Regents at its meeting April 19th. I have assured them that I share their concerns and we are working to address the challenges that are driving the escalating cost of getting a degree not only at Georgia Tech, but also throughout the state.
What I heard from undergraduates is that there is considerable confusion regarding the recent legislative changes made to the HOPE scholarship — what it does or does not cover now. Though official regulations that govern the law are still pending from the Georgia Student Finance Commission, we have created a site to help provide some clarity as we know it on these and other questions at www.gatech.edu/budgetupdate.
Graduate students have related concerns but a very different set of needs. In addition to pursuing an academic degree, many also provide institutional service not unlike our full-time faculty and staff. Because of these unique circumstances, we are reviewing options that I hope will help to offset the additional financial burden — particularly of special fees — for these students. We hope to provide further guidance to them on what is planned in the coming weeks.
It comes as no surprise that one of our biggest challenges, now and in the foreseeable future, is resources. Maintaining our status as the state’s only top-10 public research university requires ongoing investments. The faculty expertise, world-class facilities and support services available here are highly sought after. Traditionally, state support has covered a substantial portion of this cost to support the academic enterprise, academic services and instruction. But the portion of state support for academic services and instruction has been steadily declining, particularly the past three years in which the state funds appropriated have declined by more than $90 million. As state revenues to subsidize instruction have declined, the cost of delivering a high-quality education at Georgia Tech has steadily shifted to the students (and their parents). This year, for the first time in our history here at Tech, tuition will exceed state appropriations among our leading revenue sources.
Despite this, a Georgia Tech degree remains one of the best investments you can make in your future. A recent national study rated Georgia Tech the number two public university, and among the top twenty in the nation, for its 30-year return on investment. Preserving the quality and value of that degree for you and for our alumni remains one of our foremost priorities. We cannot and are not standing idly by and allowing the value of your degree to decline as the state reduces its support. Perhaps our most visible action in this regard is the launch of “Campaign Georgia Tech,” a $1.5 billion comprehensive campaign to help ensure that we are able to maintain both quality and access.
Each year, more than 11,000 Tech students receive assistance through the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. The resources of this office are available to all students, and I encourage each of you to make an appointment with a staff member to review options and pursue opportunities to help reduce the financial burden to successfully complete your college degree. Resources are available from a variety of sources, and financial aid counselors are in the best and most informed position to advise you of your options and choices. New options are available as well, including a new $20 million, low-interest loan program created by the state legislature as a part of its restructuring of the HOPE scholarship program for qualifying students in the University System. More information about this should be forthcoming in the near future.
Given its value, we believe a Georgia Tech degree should be within reach of every academically qualified student. I want to thank the leadership of both the undergraduate and graduate students of Georgia Tech for meeting with me to express their collective concerns on your behalf and offer suggestions as to how to mitigate some of the burden imposed. In these challenging economic times, there are no good choices. I want to assure you that we will continue to seek out economies and efficiencies in our operations, to advocate for additional support from the state and federal government, and to increase philanthropy that directly supports scholarships for our students to lessen the financial burden of obtaining a Georgia Tech degree.
In closing, I want to wish each of you a safe and re-energizing summer. Good luck on the remainder of your exams.
G. P. “Bud” Peterson
President, Georgia Tech