Students starting college this fall at public colleges in Georgia will be guaranteed the same rate of tuition over the next four years, under a plan approved this spring by the state board of regents.
The plan is intended to make costs more predictable for students and encourage them to graduate within four years. Those who stay longer could see their tuition jump as much as 20 percent by the fifth year. A similar plan has been in place in Illinois since 2004.
“What we’re trying to do is provide stability,” said Arlethia Perry-Johnson a spokeswoman for the board of regents for the University System of Georgia.
Students who enroll this fall in, for example, the University of Georgia, will pay $1,946 per semester, a rate that will remain constant for the first four years of their education. Out-of-state students will also have their tuition rate guaranteed for four years.
Students already enrolled in the university will pay $1,910 per semester and be subject to the typical annual increases of the old system.
First-year students will initially pay a higher tuition than current students so that the universities can maintain a steady revenue stream, Ms. Perry-Johnson said. But some higher education policy experts say the plan could lead to higher than necessary tuition increases for incoming students, so that universities do not find themselves strapped for revenue later on.
The board is likely to “estimate on the high end so [universities] don’t end up holding the bag,” said Patrick Callan, the president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, based in San Jose, Calif.
Mr. Callan also noted that the plan could be detrimental to students who must take time off to work or want to change majors, since they might have to cope with a sudden, substantial tuition increase. But Ms. Perry-Johnson said that such students would not have to pay more for their degrees than they would have under the previous plan, which would have required them to absorb yearly tuition hikes.
Ms. Perry-Johnson also pointed out that students entering the state’s two-year colleges this fall will have their tuition fixed at $794 per semester over three years, even though it normally takes only two years to complete an associate’s degree.
A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week