President of Agnes Scott and college trustee: Cutting aid to private college students will cost more than it saves

Here is a guest column on the planned cut to tuition assistance given by the state to Georgia students who attend private in-state colleges. The authors are Beth Holder, a trustee and alumna of Agnes Scott College, and Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott.

According to the AJC:

House budget writers reduced the  Tuition Equalization Grant — money paid to all private college students — from $700 to $500. The subsidy program has been around for about 40 years and is meant to help private college students pay tuition.

The $6 million saved by reducing the grant would be plowed into the Technical College System of Georgia. Deal proposed a $24 million cut in technical college funding because of an enrollment drop at the schools. Technical colleges, like University System of Georgia schools, are funded largely based on enrollment.

The cut has alarmed private colleges, which contend that the money is often a factor in a student’s ability to enroll.

By Beth Holder and Elizabeth Kiss

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a budget last Tuesday that cuts $6 million in tuition assistance to Georgia residents attending independent colleges in state. The $6 million reduction in the long-standing Tuition Equalization Grant program would be used to cover technical college and University System of Georgia shortfalls. We believe this proposed cut is misguided for several reasons.

Cutting the TEG is NOT a smart use of taxpayer money. Much like the HOPE Scholarship helps keep our best students in Georgia and ultimately generates money for the state, the TEG helps thousands of Georgia’s brightest young people attend and graduate from a private Georgia college — at a much lower cost to taxpayers than if these students attended public universities.

In fact, according to the most recent data available (2009 State Higher Education Executive Officers Report), the state of Georgia spent approximately $4,051 for each bachelor’s degree awarded to a student at private college versus $65,516 per degree awarded at a public institution. That’s 16 times less tax spending if a student attends a private institution.

Georgia students use the TEG, in combination with other scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study, to help pay for college. Private colleges do their share, raising funds from donors to provide institutional financial aid at an average of $10,500 per student per year. Cutting the TEG means some students won’t be able to bridge the gap and will either drop out or transfer to a public institution at a much higher cost to taxpayers.

Our state needs more college graduates to ensure a stronger tax base and economy. As demand for higher education outpaces the state’s ability to fund our public institutions, private colleges can pick up the slack, enrolling more Georgia students with a smaller impact on taxpayers.

A cut to TEG disproportionately hurts lower-income and minority students. Private colleges in Georgia educate more lower-income and minority students as a percent of enrollment than four-year public institutions. For example, at Agnes Scott, 34 percent of students are African-American and 48 percent of all students are eligible for Pell grants, the federal program for low-income students. Statewide, minority and low-income students also graduate at higher rates from private colleges. At a time when public policy needs to focus on getting more students, especially lower-income and minority students, to and more importantly through college, cutting TEG funding does just the opposite.

TEG has already been cut to the bone. Georgia students who attended private colleges in the early 1990s received a TEG award of around $1000 per year. The TEG has already been reduced to $700. The House-approved budget would reduce it by another 28 percent, to $500. This would bring overall cuts to the TEG program to a whopping 58 percent since 2000. TEG is not a bloated program in need of a diet—there’s no fat left to cut here.

The State Senate has the next crack at the FY 2014 state budget. We urge Senators to restore TEG funding and ask Gov. Nathan Deal, a long-time supporter of the TEG, to weigh in on this important opportunity to maintain a balanced system of higher education in Georgia. And we call on all Georgians who want to save taxpayer money while expanding college access and success to raise your voices against these short-sighted cuts.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

14 comments Add your comment

Another View

March 20th, 2013
9:17 am

AJCs reported “Technical colleges, like University System of Georgia schools, are funded largely based on enrollment.” This is for 2013-2014 only. There is a new funding formula for USG colleges and universities starting that year which will no longer be based on enrollment, but on RPG.

Billy Ray

March 20th, 2013
10:31 am

Private colleges are too expensive. The value is just not there. Agnes Scott, while pretty to look at, never is listed as a top-tier school.

We need more people to get vocational educations and the state certainly will get a lot more bang for its buck by sending the money to the technical schools.

10:10 am

March 20th, 2013
10:35 am

Re-directing money from liberal arts education to education in technical skills—is in line with a perception that we produce too many graduates in the former and not nearly enough in the latter.

Question: How many Sociology or Black Studies majors does it take to design the next generation jet engine? Answer: An infinite number.

Then too, what has Agnes Scott College done to effectively address the inflated costs of higher education? Or to revamp course offerings to better match the actual needs of the new global economy?


March 20th, 2013
10:45 am

@Billy Ray, It is immaterial the cost of a private college and if you think it is too expensive. The student attending the college is funding their education through a variety of means that *they* are responsible for. The point of the discussion is as the letter states ‘ “the state of Georgia spent approximately $4,051 for each bachelor’s degree awarded to a student at private college versus $65,516 per degree awarded at a public institution. That’s 16 times less tax spending if a student attends a private institution.”

While I agree that we need to support vo-tech education better than we do as we are facing a shortage of people with that kind of training, taking money from the private college funds is not the way to do it. The relatively small investment provides a huge return.

Higher Ed Advo

March 20th, 2013
10:50 am

Obama administration has “pumped” billions into the Technical Schools around the nation, to ensure that we have skilled trade labor in place for when Baby Boomers retire. It is now saturated with grads, equivalent to nurses when we said we would have a shortage, but now nurses (2-year) are having a problem finding a job.

The focus should be on 4-year and up higher ed going forward for the next few years. This is where the strength of the middle class will come from that can demand salaries high enough to support a tax base needed in the State of Georgia.


March 20th, 2013
11:28 am

“Re-directing money from liberal arts education to education in technical skills—is in line with a perception that we produce too many graduates in the former and not nearly enough in the latter.”

You do realize mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology are all liberal arts majors (and offered at Agnes Scott [along with computer science and engineering dual degrees]), right? Of course you don’t, because it’s so much easier to view the world in black and white terms.


March 20th, 2013
11:38 am

I’m sure TONS potential Berry and Emory students are going to flock to the University of North Georgia and UGA because of $200/semester. This is an outrageous program. While the writer claims it keeps bright students in Georgia, more than half don’t qualify for HOPE. The savings are not there. This money is a hand-out to for-profit institutions.

10:10 am

March 20th, 2013
11:57 am

@ Guest:

Can you provide statistics on the percentage of Agnes Scott students graduating last year with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics?

Georgia Parent

March 20th, 2013
12:06 pm

As a parent of a current Agnes Scott College student I’ll tell you that Agnes Scott IS considered one of the top colleges in the US. ASC turns out future economists, doctors, and scientists as well as the “Sociology or Black Studies” majors you deride. My daughter has just been accepted at the two top master’s programs for her future field of endeavor based on her “current performance at a top US college”.

But beyond that there are number of Georgia students at other Georgia private universities, such as Emory University, which will be affected by this change. Let’s encourage the best and brightest Georgia students to STAY in Georgia instead of forcing them into out-of-state schools.


March 20th, 2013
1:19 pm

The University System of GA needs as much competition as it can get. Starving private colleges of scholarship money won’t help that.


March 20th, 2013
1:31 pm

As an ASC parent whose child is pursuing a degree in the sciences, I beg to differ. Agnes is one of the best colleges in the country and has a stellar reputation. It’s very in vogue to bash schools designated as liberal arts, but one of the complaints I’m hearing from employers is that too may gradutes lack the ability to THINK, which a liberal arts education provides. It’s funny how many Asian students are coming here to get a liberal arts education. Do yourself a favor and read about the school before you talk about the school

The TEG grant many not be much money to many, but to those who need every penny, it makes a difference. Unless you have been in the position of trying to pay for college in today’s environment, you have no idea.


March 20th, 2013
2:02 pm

10:10, well a few years ago my daughter was one of I think 4 students with a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics in the dadgummed state! Earned at Agnes Scott. Along with a dual major in math.

Nicole Caldwell

March 20th, 2013
2:04 pm

As a current Agnes Scott student, I definitely find this extremely disheartening especially since this tuition equalization grant helps fund my education. I see the value in my college education and the importance of an Agnes Scott education. This school provides many of its students with scholarships and federal aid to help reduce the “out-of-pocket” costs for students unlike other colleges. As a member of a college that produces Fullbright, Goldwater, Truman, and Rhodes Scholars (not to mention an Agnes alum was “Georgia’s First Female Rhodes Scholar”), Agnes Scott is definitely a “top tier” school. I will definitely be disappointed if the Senate votes against restoring the TEG grant. Please do your part to help support these private colleges and even public colleges, as they will produce great engineers, doctors, writers, poets, of our time and for our future generations to come!


March 20th, 2013
8:24 pm

How much is the annual tuition including room and board at Agnes Scott?