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Georgia colleges get 'F' in affordability

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Georgia prides itself on the HOPE scholarship program, but a new report from a national education group gives the state an F in making college affordable.

Overall, Georgia got a mixed report card: a C in preparing kids for college, a D in college participation, or the percentage who attend college, and a B in the percentage of students completing college.

Georgia wasn't alone in getting an F in affordability. More than two-thirds of the states scored as low, and most states that didn't get an F got a D. California got the highest grade - a B - because it offers need-based financial aid, Jones said.

Georgia's F is stinging in light of the state's reputation as a national leader in using lottery revenue to help families pay for college. Other states, such as West Virginia, have modeled their merit-based scholarships after HOPE.

The study considered college costs relative to average family incomes. Georgia's incomes are so low - $20,201 for the lowest-earning 40 percent of the population - that college is unaffordable, researchers concluded. The cost of a four-year college here, including room and board, was listed as $7,107 a year.

Students from the poorest families are eligible for federal aid but not for enough aid to cover all college costs.

Georgia officials pointed out flaws in the study. For example, many students do not need room and board, said Arlethia Perry-Johnson, a spokeswoman for the University System of Georgia. And Georgia's tuition is lower than most in the nation, ranking 35th for research universities and 39th for two- and four-year institutions.

Although HOPE is merit-based, millions of dollars go to students from poor families, he said. In 2002, $88 million of $322 million went to students from families poor enough to qualify for the federal grants. Also, HOPE provides a free education to any Georgian who wants to attend a technical college, he added.

Hamrick might introduce a bill next year that would address need-based aid.

True - But the difference is that Georgia public colleges, like UGA and Georgia Tech, show up on Money, Fiske and other "Best Buy" college guide lists. It seems that a Georgia college education is not the bargain some would have you believe...put another way - it is just as expensive as publics anywhere else -

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