After years of tuition and fee hikes and HOPE Scholarship cuts, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead announced several initiatives today aimed at keeping UGA affordable for students, as well as hiring new faculty.
"We must never forget that our tuition and fees constitute a lot of money to students and families striving to realize the dream of achieving a UGA education," he said. "Keeping that dream available for as many as possible should be a priority for all of us."
Kiplinger's already ranks UGA as the tenth-best value in higher education, but Morehead said the university can do better.
Housing and dining-plan rates will be frozen at this year's levels for the 2014-2015 school year, Morehead said during his first State of the University speech at the Chapel since he took over as president July 1. Both University Housing and Food Services are entirely self-funding, receiving no state, tuition or fee support, but effective management enabled the one-year freeze, he said.
Morehead also announced new financial support from the UGA Athletic Association: $1 million to start an endowment for the Presidential Leadership Scholars and another $1 million for need-based aid.
"We plan to make scholarship and need-based aid focal points in our upcoming [$1 billion fundraising] campaign for the University of Georgia, and I will strongly encourage our alumni and friends to support these kinds of initiatives," he said.
The athletic association, which now funds 21 professorships, has also agreed to fund four more this spring, Morehead said. And the capital campaign will raise money for more endowed chairs, he said. He also touted a $2.2 initiative announced in November that led to the hiring of 16 interdisciplinary professors.
Morehead said his "top legislative priority" is raises for faculty and staff. Gov. Nathan Deal included $10 million for merit-based raises in his proposed budget—the equivalent of 1 percent for all employees, though they won't be distributed equally.
"Higher education, like all high-skill occupations in this global economy, is a very competitive field, and we are falling behind and losing some excellent faculty and staff," he said. "We cannot allow this to continue without jeopardizing our competitive position in higher education, something the governor understands and that we deeply appreciate."
After his speech, Morehead told reporters that UGA will follow the Board of Regents' lead in deciding how to distribute raises.