Despite campus changes tuition and fees remain the same

Illustration by Monique | The Signal

Despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s efforts to reopen the state, the fall semester will be a far cry from business as usual.

While many amenities on campus will finally open after several months of quarantine, including the library and the recreation center, dormitories have reduced their occupancy and many classes have switched to either fully online or hybrid models, where the class will meet in-person once a week.

But, to many students, the costs don’t reflect the times. Mandatory fees are still to be paid in full as the price of tuition has not changed at all since before the pandemic.

Tuition and Fees

For a full-time student attending classes in fall 2020 and spring 2021, their tuition is expected to be $4,474 each semester if they’re in state and $13,993 if they’re out of state; their fees are $1,064 in total per semester. Despite the pandemic, the costs are the same as last year’s.

Though tuition has remained consistent, the policy for mandatory fees has changed. In a recent Signal article, the Communications Manager for the Office of the Provost Jeremy Craig said only face-to-face students would have to pay all mandatory fees.

”For students who are only taking classes taught 100% online, they [would] only pay the online fee and the special institutional fee,” he said. “If a student has a face-to-face class of any kind in their schedule, they [would] be charged student fees as … we [had] done in previous semesters.”

The special institutional fee is imposed by the Board of Regents, which manages the University System of Georgia. The fee is collected from all USG schools, and is then used to cover general education programs, employee salary and benefits and classroom maintenance.

Now, all students, whether taking face-to-face classes or solely online classes, have to pay the full mandatory fees.

The Board of Regents approved the fee structure for the semester. Usually, a press release would preface the approval of each year’s fee structure. However, there’s no press release for this year’s fee structure as of August 23.

According to the BoR’s policy manual, students could have their mandatory fees waived if they enroll in distance-learning courses or are taking less than fifteen credit hours. However, they would still have to pay the special institutional fee.

The Board of Regents has not responded to a request to comment by The Signal.

One Georgia State student, posting on Georgia State’s subreddit by the handle tduong2010, doesn’t believe online classes are worth as much as those that are face-to-face.

“I started to think about this a lot,” the student said. “Intro classes, such as sociology, history, philosophy … or electives can now 100% be taught online, [so] why do we pay the same amount for those classes just to sit at home watching from the laptop screen?”

They also suggest that mandatory fees should at least be reduced in the fall semester.

“I feel that there is no reason to fully charge those fees during the time when 90% of students won’t be on campus and athletic activities [have] nearly ceased,” the student said. “I’m fine with paying to maintain the campus, but I just see no reason to charge the same amount as pre-[COVID-19] semesters.”

Other students agree with user tduong2010, believing that the fees should be discounted upfront because students’ finances are exacerbated by COVID-19.

According to University Registrar Tarrah Mirus, as of the morning of August 11, around 43% of Georgia State students (20,487 out of 47,313 students) are set to be taking only online classes in the fall semester.

This is before many students noticed their once hybrid classes were suddenly becoming online only. This led to frustration among some Georgia State students, expressing their anger on the subreddit. 

Let’s do the math.

Suppose the mandatory fees are reduced to 60%, the same cut that occurred during the 2020 spring semester at the start of quarantine. Mandatory fees usually add up to $1064; 60% of that is $638.4. 

  • If all students paid fees as usual, the revenue would be around $50 million.
  • If all students paid fees reduced by 60%, the revenue would be around $30 million.
  • If all students paid only the institutional fee, the revenue would be around $19 million.
  • If online students paid fees reduced by 60%, the revenue would be around $43 million.
  • If online students paid only the institutional fee, the revenue would be $37 million.
  • If online students didn’t pay fees at all, the revenue would be $29 million.

An important note: these figures assume that students are enrolled full-time. Realistically, since part-time students pay less fees, the revenues would be lower.

Regardless, the proportions of the data would remain the same.

The total revenue from mandatory fees would theoretically be about $42 million.

Compared to the revenue expected if all students paid 100% of the mandatory fees — about $50 million — revenue would decrease by approximately 17%, or a little over $8 million.

If online-only students did not pay mandatory fees at all, the decrease would be 43% or about $22 million, effectively slashing revenue that would fund services, such as student clubs, the recreation center, transportation and the library.

In spite of it, students believe it’s worth the sacrifice.

“I understand the need for fees … I’m sure the fees provide a decent portion of [Georgia State’s] overall budget,” Canty said. “And there are still facilities to maintain and … employees to pay. However, the [University System of Georgia] can afford a loss on fees, while many students can’t afford the fees in a normal economic climate, let alone the current one.”