April 15, 2014

Dalton State College gets another tuition hike

By Christopher Smith

— Dalton State College students will pay higher tuition starting in the fall semester, which has students such as Thomas Skyes scratching their heads.

“I mean, it’s tough sometimes with money,” Skyes said. “And people harp on us for not having an education.”

Tuition for a typical Dalton State student — someone who lives in-state and takes 15 credit hours a semester — will increase to $1,495 from $1,459. Last year, tuition was $1,423

Out-of-state students will pay $5,523 in the fall, up from $5,388 this year. Last year, out-of-state students paid $5,257.

The state Board of Regents who voted Tuesday to approve tuition hikes at all 31 colleges and universities. Tuition costs have increased every year since at least 2002 at Georgia’s state campuses. While the Board of Regents kept the rate of tuition increases at 2.5 percent for 27 campuses, students at the system’s four research universities will see costs increase more. The increase ranges from about $32 at state colleges to about $85 at Georgia College and State University per semester.

The tuition increase at Dalton State is on top of fees students pay each semester, including $200 to help pay for college operations, $48 for access to technology such as the library computer lab, $40 to pay for out-of-class programs, $65 for parking, $20 for transportation, $83 to support athletics and $20 for recreational activities such as access to tennis courts.

All that brings the total per semester cost for an in-state student taking 15 credit hours to $1,971, including the tuition increase. Student enrollment has been dropping at the college. It peaked in 2010 at 5,988 students and now has roughly 5,000 students enrolled. College officials have long said the drop is more related to a shift in stricter admission requirements and not related to the increase in cost.

Dalton State President John Schwenn stated in a press release that the college still has an “extraordinary value for a high quality education.”

“For less than $2,000 a semester, a Georgia student can attend Dalton State full time,” he said. “We think that ... keeps a college degree within the economic reach of most families.”

“The University System is continually seeking ways to make college education more accessible to more students, delivering core content in an online environment is just one way to reach those who prefer learning online as well as students who cannot easily make it to campus because of work or family commitments.”

Skyes said he “loves Dalton State and is impressed by how much they’ve grown lately (revitalizing athletics programs and offering more degrees),” but is weary of a trend of higher costs in higher education that he says makes it hard for people entering their 20s to afford a worthwhile degree.

Hector Dominico, also a student at Dalton State, agrees.

“I watch every dollar,” he said. “I don’t come from a rich family. I do get some financial support, but with the fees and tuition going up each year it makes things a little harder. I go to Dalton State because I can afford it. Now I can afford it less. One day, if this continues, I won’t be able to pay for it anymore. And then what?”

Dominico said he “really appreciates Dalton State being affordable.”

“Ultimately, I make it work,” he said of the increase in costs. “I just worry that — you know — down the road, it’ll become out of reach. There were a lot of colleges that were out of reach for me. I never want Dalton State to become one of those places for someone. Being affordable and good quality is what makes it good.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)