August 6, 2012
Rising tuition costs and shrinking student aid have left many college students in debt, forcing some to reconsider higher education altogether. While many schools' shrinking budgets have left them with few options, Inside Higher Ed reports that one Georgia college offering diploma and associate degrees is taking matters into its own hands.
Last year, South Georgia Technical College students learned the school's Hope Grant benefits would be downgraded. According to Inside Higher Ed, between 80 and 85 percent of the college's students are eligible for the need-based grant, which used to cover 100 percent of tuition costs and awarded a $150 voucher for textbooks. Now the grant will only cover 90 percent of tuition costs and not supplement book costs at all. While the change might seem minor on paper, it was dramatic to its already struggling student body: According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, enrollment dropped by 12 percent, partly due to the cutback.
That's when faculty and administrators decided to look for creative solutions to make school more affordable to their students. Their solution: A no-cost textbook rental program that could save students hundreds of dollars each semester.
"This is a new opportunity and one that could save students hundreds of dollars in book fees each semester," South Georgia Technical College President Sparky Reeves said in an article published on the school's website. "The rising cost of college textbooks is a tremendous barrier for some individuals who want to attend college. By eliminating the cost of textbooks for students, we believe that we will open the door for some students who might be unable to attend college otherwise."
The program will allow students to borrow their textbooks at no cost at the beginning of each semester, and then return them -- in good condition -- at the end. The book store will still stock a limited number of books for students who prefer to purchase them.
"This is the way that our K-12 schools have operated for many years," said Reeves, via the South Georgia Tech website. "...This same type of arrangement can work at the college level!"
While the program may be the lifeline some students need to attend school, it is expensive. According to GBP, the program will cost South Georgia Tech about $400,000. Reeves hopes that the school will be able to recoup the cost if it is able to increase enrollment.
South Georgia Tech is not the only area school struggling with potential financial woes: WALB News reports that Georgia Southwestern administrators are also monitoring students' financial strain.
"We have not seen a dramatic change in enrollment differences, but we are very sensitive to the fact that families are struggling to pay for college," Georgia Southwestern's Vice President of Enrollment Management Dr. Gaye Hayes told WALB. "...Students have chosen to stay at home, and we believe it is a financial decision."
WALB reports that Reeves believes South Georgia Tech's new textbook program will draw many of these struggling students to its doorstep.
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"Buying Books No More," insidehighered.com, August 6, 2012, Elise Young
"College Luring Students With Free Books," gpb.org, July 26, 2012, Ellen Reinhardt
"South Georgia Tech offers students books at no cost!" southgatech.edu, July 11, 2012
"South Georgia Tech to offer free books," walb.com, July 19, 2012, Dayne Young