Southern Education

Put the blame where you may: the major downturn in the economy, a former governor (Sonny Perdue) who did not take up the education mantle, or a changing and inept legislature which does not cherish education.

You may have a choice where you place the blame, but for sure, one group has been hit the hardest with this failure to adequately fund higher education. It is surely the students (and parents of students) in our state colleges.

Consider these facts:

  • The state’s share of funding higher education is decreasing.
  • The state funding per full time student is the lowest since 1994.
  • And as a result of the recent General Assembly, the funding gap is getting wider!

It is not a pretty picture.

Look at Chart 1. In 1995, the State of Georgia formula for paying for higher education meant that the state funded 75 percent, while tuition and fees provided 25 percent. Starting in 2000, the state’s percentage started falling. After a round of cuts following 9/11, this formula fell to 67 percent; after Sonny Perdue became governor, it first leveled off, then took a nosedive, so that today, the state provides only 54 percent of higher education funding.

State of Georgia is falling behind in funding higher education

This is a major decline from the “historic compact” of the state funding 75 percent of the cost of higher education.

Meanwhile, student tuition and fees accounts for 46 percent (up from 25 percent) of the formula for paying for higher education. That’s nearly a 100 percent increase! No wonder students (and parents) are upset. On top of this, consider a falling amount of Hope Scholarship funding, and the hurt of students becomes more apparent.

Look at it another way. (See Chart 2).

State Funding per FTE student is the lowest since 1994

In 1994, the state was funding $5,412 per full time equivalent student. It went as high as $8,294 in 2001, fell considerably, but bounced back to $8,191 in 2009. Since then, it has taken a nosedive in three year, to today’s $5,505 (for year 2012), which is barely above the 1994 figure!

No wonder university presidents are in an uproar, university budgets severely downsized, many courses eliminated, a higher number of students in classes, and in general, parents and students both stunned and strained in their pocketbooks. College presidents have had to eliminate positions; increase use of part time faculty, defer maintenance and reduce library holdings.

Georgia’s traditional solid support for higher education is experiencing significant trauma, with the prognosis in considerable question.

This decline in funding isn’t just hurting higher education and the student. This continuing failure to provide solid support for higher education will also be felt in the growth of economic development in the state, will considerably reduce Georgia’s ranking among states in the view of others, and will eventually impact the quality of life of all Georgians.

Georgia’s higher education fortunes were once hurt by a governor seeking to introduce pure politics in the governance of the universities. Georgia got a black eye years ago when Eugene Talmadge tried to pull this trick.

Now Georgia’s chance for high quality higher education is primarily a question of funding. Some governors have made a name for themselves by wanting to be known as an “education governor.” It didn’t work for Sonny Perdue. We hope Gov. Nathan Deal finds a way to provide leadership (particularly in regards to the Legislature) and rescue higher education so that he will be remembered as an “education governor.”

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County,, and Georgia news,

  1. In the long run, any society that doesn’t transmit its culture and traditions and acquired skills to subsequent generations is destined for the dustbin of history, like the Mayans. All individuals die; only societies survive. So, if society wants to survive and survival is a benefit, society ought to pay for education. Expecting parents, who already procreate, rear and nurture the next generation for free (they have no expectation of getting a return), to also pay for education and training is a gross injustice. Expecting the next generation to indenture themselves to the financiers in hopes of getting employment is also exploitive, but not inconsistent with the perception that’s what people are for, to be exploited like milk cows–human husbandry.

    The privatized financial sector sees itself in competition with and beholden to the public sector. That is, they want to have influence at the same time that they want to suckle at the public teat. Public programs are seen as source of both influence and steady income, as long as the public “beast” can be neutralized and doesn’t have to be served. Everything was going along so well, as long as public officials were drawn from the self-annointed ruling class. The universal franchise threatens that cosy relationship, so the beast has to be leashed and financial indenture helps accomplish that. The thing about a monetized society is that the potential for equality is great, but money is also a handy tool with which to subordinate.

    The reassignment of servicing the higher education loan program to the Department of Education from the banks has soured a lot of people who looked upon higher education as a cash cow, a steady trickle of interest income and a steadily increasing addition to human husbandry.

  2. I’d like to see this chart done again with the HOPE scholarship added in as a state contribution. A “B” student can still get a college degree nearly free in Georgia. That’s got to count for something.

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