Georgia, why do you not care about education?

I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life and am an alumna of one of Georgia’s private colleges. I also have experience with the University System of Georgia, having attended one of Georgia’s public colleges while in high school.

So of course I was simultaneously disgusted and unsurprised when Governor Sonny Perdue recommended cutting $265 million from the University System’s Budget. Oh, and the powers that be are looking into how to cut up to $300 million more. That’s to fill a $1.1 billion budget hole, folks. If you’re doing the math, you’ll realize that in the worst case scenario, over half the cuts are from higher education alone.

The article outlines what some of the colleges and universities would be cutting in order to satisfy their share of the budget cuts, and it’s not pretty. The most striking cut is the reduction of the student body, particularly in the entering class and the number of transfers accepted.

To illustrate what could happen if the worst case scenario happens, let’s look at Jane. Jane’s a high school senior. She’s smart, but by no means a top student. She qualifies for the HOPE scholarship, which will pay for her tuition for four years if she has a B average upon entering a public school in Georgia and maintains that average at each checkpoint (every 30 hours). Jane has four options, and she can take any of these:

1. She can apply to a four-year college in Georgia, where first-year class numbers have been reduced, possibly reducing her chances of being admitted
2. She can apply to a two-year college in Georgia and transfer to a four-year college, but thanks to the reduction of admitted transfer students at some of these schools, she risks not being accepted thanks to what could be more competition for fewer spots
3. She can apply to a private college in Georgia. She won’t get the full HOPE scholarship, but depending on the college, they may give her a certain amount of money if she qualifies for HOPE. Assuming the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant is still around (and knowing all these budget cuts, it probably won’t be), she would qualify for that.
4. She can apply to a college out of state where she has no in-state aid available to her.

Under normal circumstances the answer may be clear. Now that the number of available places in a class could be reduced, and one could argue, the quality of Jane’s education lessened, she may be better off going to a private school or out of state. However, this may not be in Jane’s family’s budget and isn’t an option for many students (including me) unless a really good financial aid package is involved. Getting a job is certainly no backup plan right now, as many of us know. This plan has the potential to leave many high school students stuck with no real start to their post-high school lives while giving Georgia even more of a reputation for being a land of uneducated hicks. Thanks for showing you care so much about the education of your citizens, Georgia. I’ll keep this in mind when I leave.