The state of Georgia’s tuition increase has caused some students to worry about their financial state, but Georgia State’s two-week early billing date leaves some students in shock and questioning the school’s reasoning.
Students’ first tuition bill was due Aug. 8, two weeks before the beginning of classes on Aug. 21 in comparison to one week early last fall semester. Some students were concerned with whether they’ll have the necessary funds by the due date, in order to avoid being dropped from classes.
“My biggest fear is that if I don’t pay by this deadline, I will not able to re-register in time to get the classes that I need because once it’s dropped, those classes will be filled up by other students,” Zisuh Morfaw, Georgia State student, said. Morfaw called the due date “completely unacceptable.”
Charmaine Daniels, Georgia State Student Accounts Director, said the financial aid office wants students to begin the semester focusing on their academics instead of trying to finalize their financial aid and payments.
“Last year we had more than 10,000 students who were still trying to complete financial aid requirements as classes were beginning. This was the first year that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was available to students much earlier,” Daniels said.
Students were able to begin submitting their FAFSA in October 2016, meaning they had three extra months to begin the financial aid process, according to Daniels.
Reasons some students have theorized to be the drivers behind the early deadline include the new Georgia State stadium and added bus transportation and recreation fees.
“I honestly think it’s because of greed. When it comes to financial help or giving grants to students, they will not offer any immediate assistance. Instead, they will be sending countless email reminders about students’ bills due but they will never process HOPE in time and they will put last minute holds on their account that prevents people from registering,” Morfaw said.
What also comes as a shock to many students is the early payment coming after the University System of Georgia’s (USG) college tuition increase in state schools across Georgia.
In spring, the USG decided to increase college tuition from 2.5 to 9 percent. The Board of Regents approved this, leading to Georgia State experiencing a 5.5 percent increase in the fall. This means a semester increase of around $223.
“As students, we are paying for so many unnecessary things that add on to our fee like recreation and student transportation that just make our overall bill ridiculous to pay. I can just say I do not agree with the Board of Regents that USG should increase college tuition. Getting new faculty members is not an excuse for increasing tuition,” Morfaw said.
The AJC states that the increase is due to the research institutions’ need to stay competitive with schools nationwide, due to the school’s high demand. The increase is also necessary for the hiring of new faculty and the funds needed to operate the campus in its entirety, in addition to the three percent increase in HOPE scholarships also occurring.
For students who are worried about not having the necessary funds by the due date, Daniels said they encourage students to “make a financial plan as early as possible including completing a FAFSA.”
“For students awarded financial aid, but the amount is not enough to cover institutional charges, available options include the Federal PLUS Loan (for parents and graduate students) and private education loans (for students),” Daniels said.
The financial aid office also has an installment plan to help students who may not be able to pay their full tuition and fees charges by the payment deadline. This plan means paying 50 percent plus a $50 application fee by the payment deadline, 25 percent by mid-September and the last 25 percent by the second week of October.
“I think that the problem is that they wait too late to send out fall balances. If maybe they sent them out earlier, students like myself could start paying some of it off before it’s all due at one time,” Georgia State student Me’Lexus Johnson said. “I didn’t get my balance until the week before they sent out the notices about the fall deadline. I checked every day to see if it was posted. $3000 is a lot of money to be paid at one time, and the payment plans aren’t really that helpful.”
An Inside Higher Ed article states the number of colleges and universities eligible to award federal financial aid dropped by 5.6 percent in 2016-2017. It highlights opinion predictions that higher education is on the verge of a major collapse, as a result of enrollment falling as loan debt and rising tuition cause students and families to ask harder questions about the value of college credentials.
“The majority of financial assistance awarded at Georgia State comes from federal funds so our ability to award these funds has not changed,” Daniels said. “It is dependent on the funding levels approved by the federal government and student eligibility.”
In the past, students have shown concern regarding their financial aid not being processed in time before the payment deadline. Daniels said financial aid processing can be delayed if students do not submit all required documentation in a timely manner or if documents are submitted “piecemeal rather than full.”
“Students are encouraged to monitor their Georgia State email account and their PAWS account, at least on a weekly basis, to determine if all paperwork has been received by the Office of Student Financial Aid. Any delay in submitting documentation, particularly as the start of the semester gets closer, will increase the processing time due to volume,” Daniels said.
How a Payment Plan Can Help
- Georgia State’s Payment Plan via PantherPay within PAWS is a two installment plan allowing students to defer up to 50 percent of their current term tuition and fees or 50 percent of their account balance, whichever is less. The remaining balance is split into two, to be paid at later dates during the semester.
- A down payment is required at enrollment, along with a $50 application fee.
- Students with at least a $300 deferrable balance remaining after all financial aid payments have been applied to their account are eligible.
- Enrollment for fall semester begins in July and is available until the second week of classes.