Mercer University to Georgia Taxpayers: you all go ahead and tighten your belts but we won’t settle for fewer tax dollars

Mercer University President William Underwood, in an e-mail evidently sent to alumni this last week, extols them to protest any cut to the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant Program, targeted to be eliminated from the budget. In the missive, Underwood makes this ludicrous point:

For many of our students, this $1,000 grant makes the difference in being able to attend Mercer.

Really? That’s amazing since one year of undergraduate tuition (including room and board) at Mercer costs approximately $37,476. Just who are these parents who can afford $36,476 to have their child attend Mercer but just soil themselves when the bill is revised upward $1,000.00? If you said that scholarships make up the difference, I would tend to agree, but I doubt that in the final estimate children are denied an ability to attend Mercer because of $83 dollars a month.

In the midst of a recession, billions of dollars are being cut across the board in the State budget. Students in state schools are facing tuition increases. But for William Underwood, he’d rather cry for his University and shriek like a little girl over the temerity of elected officials who think that in a time of budgetary constraints everyone should be treated equally and that Mercer University should handle a little bit of the budgetary load.

Underwood’s full letter after the jump…

Dear Mercer Alum:

I am grateful for the assistance many Mercer alumni from across the state have provided in helping advocate for the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant program, which has been targeted for elimination in the Governor’s proposed budget.

This program, which was established in 1974, provides approximately $1,000 per year to Georgia residents who attend private colleges and universities. Many Mercer alumni – perhaps you – directly benefited from this program, which contributes to making a Mercer education affordable. Today, 29,000 Georgia families directly benefit from this program. The purpose for the TEG is to preserve private higher education as an option for Georgia residents and thereby preserve a rich diversity of higher education choices for our citizens.

For many of our students, this $1,000 grant makes the difference in being able to attend Mercer. Eliminating this program could force many students at private colleges and universities into an already overburdened and overcrowded state system, where the cost to taxpayers per student exceeds $7,000. As a result, the proposed elimination of the Tuition Equalization Grant would adversely impact the quality of higher education available to students from Georgia, would diminish the higher education options available to those students, and cost taxpayers more than would be saved.

We are making progress in our efforts to preserve this vitally important program. However, more work is required. Many Mercer alumni have already contacted their representatives in the Georgia House of Representatives, and their voices are being heard. Our students now need you to contact your representative in the Georgia State Senate as soon as possible to advocate restoring this program. If you attended Mercer after 1974, be sure to tell your senator how important the program was to you and your family.

Contact information for your state senator is available at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/state/main/?state=GA&view=myofficials – 0.

Our students appreciate your assistance.

William D. Underwood

51 comments

  1. bgsmallz says:

    Apparently, Dr. Underwood isn’t an economics professor…

    For many of our students, this $1,000 grant makes the difference in being able to attend Mercer. Eliminating this program could force many students at private colleges and universities into an already overburdened and overcrowded state system, where the cost to taxpayers per student exceeds $7,000.

    Not only is Pete dead-on in his assessment…how many students really can’t afford that $1,000?…but I assume it could also ‘force’ students to chose other more affordable options of private education rather than ‘force’ them into state universities. Which might ‘force’ Mercer to charge a market rate for their tuition rather than a rate subsidized by $1,000 in order to maintain their current level of enrollment.

    I’m all for providing scholarships and subsidies for lower income students to attend college even through state and federally collected taxes (which might differ from some here), but this just sounds stupid. How many students are at Mercer, anyway? 8,000? Just cut your budget by $800,000 and keep the tuition at the same level if it is that important.

    The sky is falling!!! Mercer might not be able to give raises to its faculty and administration like it did in 2009 because the state is taking away $800,000!!!! Or maybe you’ll only have a $224M budget to build new medical facilities instead of a $225M budget. Screw you, Dr. Underwood.

    -“The Board approved a $170.5 million operating budget for next year, an $11 million, or 6.9 percent, increase over the current budget. The bulk of the increase will fund faculty and staff raises and the first full year of operations for the School of Medicine’s Savannah campus, which is underwritten by a state grant. Tuition for most programs will increase by 6.5 percent, compared with 6.8 percent last year and 7 percent in 2006.

    -Constructing $225 million in new facilities on the Macon and Atlanta campuses, at the University’s regional academic centers, and at the Medical School campus in Savannah.

    http://www2.mercer.edu/NewsAtMercerAE/Summer2008/13Strategic+Plan.htm

  2. macho says:

    It’s so stupid. Some of these students need to suck it up and get a job. I’m sure, somehow in their busy schedule, they can figure out how to make an extra $20 a week. I suggest McDonalds.

    • Mozart says:

      Hm…seen anything like…say, unemployment stats and “positions open” ads lately, macho?

      There’s not a whole lot of jobs out there.

      • Having recently looked through job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc. there are plenty of job postings out there from what I’ve been able to tell. Unemployment stats or not, I constantly have recruiters contacting me with open jobs. Some of them I pass on along to any friends I might know that are interested… others I simply turn down.

        • ByteMe says:

          Current stats are that for every 1 job opening, there are 6 people unemployed. That’s not good odds.

          But, yes, if you are in higher tech, the odds are tilted more in your favor.

      • Romegaguy says:

        Mercer is in Macon. There are a lot of massage parlors that have opened up there since Mercer alum Erick was elected to city council. Maybe they are hiring

  3. polisavvy says:

    Mr. Randall, this was an excellent post. Hopefully someone at Mercer will see this and realize that their position needs a little work. There is nothing wrong with sweat equity by the students working in order to be able to attend Mercer. If they can’t attend, well that’s really a shame; however, there are other schools in Georgia where they can go for a lot less money — it’s called public as opposed to private.

        • Republican Lady says:

          That is so true and we need to change it, but how? What do you recommend? How would you move Georgia to the top ten states in say, the next twenty years?

          I think parents must demand better education in return for the taxes paid but I have no plan on how to get that done. I guess they are just going to have to get mad as _ell and demand change. What say you?

          • ByteMe says:

            How do you move Georgia to a top-10 state?

            You can’t. Education is not valued highly enough in about half the state. But if it was, then you really need four steps:

            1. Fire bad teachers. You can use the tests to figure out which teachers are consistently not helping their students.

            2. Hire good teachers and pay them enough to stay. This means raising taxes, a heresy in this state.

            3. Adjust NCLB so that it stops using tests to fail the entire school and instead use it to identify which teachers are unable to teach and which grades at which schools are “at risk” and put more resources — e.g., teacher assistants — into those grades at those schools to improve the outcome.

            4. Have a way that by 11th grade every child is either learning a trade or working toward college, depending on the student’s (and his/her parent’s) desire and ability. Students learning a trade should avoid the SAT. Work with local businesses near the high school so that students learning a trade can apprentice in the trade for part of each day if desired for credit.

            We have a very high percentage of students taking the SAT, which means we end up with the lowest average scores; Iowa has the highest average score, but only 4% take the test.

            • Bucky Plyler says:

              Good thoughts Byte, except for #2. Your other thoughts actually address some of the problems.

              Education is valued more highly than you think in GA. However, you can’t tell it from the product & results that are put out year after year.

              As long as the same model is pushed in public education, the same problems will exist.

              • Republican Lady says:

                I guess it is like that saying where “if you do what you always do, you will get what you always get.”

              • ByteMe says:

                Who says “libtards don’t have good ideas”? 🙂

                #2 is essential to retaining better teachers and continuity is important, because the experienced teachers are important.

                Paying good teachers less than we pay good secretaries is a good way to lose them to something more lucrative. Let’s show teachers we value them by paying them like we value them.

                Same for police and fire, by the way. It amazes me that we want people to risk their lives for us but aren’t willing to pay them like our lives depend on them.

                • Gary Cooper says:

                  Byte is partially right in his assessment in item #2. We do need to pay good teachers a competitive salary to stay in this profession and to stay in this state. How do we raise the revenue? Byte says tax increases. I disagree with this. I say we cut in administrations – both at the school level and at the local BOE’s. We can also cut out the fat at the state board of education and put this money into hiring good teachers.

                  Schools over the last two generations have gotten away from being learning institutions and turned into another state bureaucracy. It is time to cut the fat and make our schools actual learning centers once more. This will go a long way in improving education.

                  On another note, I do like Byte’s idea of implementing a trade curriculum, but I offer that we do this before the 11th grade – say around the 8th or 9th grade. I say we alter our high schools to have college prep. programs, but individual trade programs as well. There can be a core set of courses and if a student later decides to transfer to another program, they can. Many private colleges offer this type of education today and are very successful. The student will still be able to achieve an education in 4 years or less and be better prepared for secondary education.

                  • Republican Lady says:

                    I pulled out an old textbook dealing with european politics and governments, and Germany does what you mentioned. In the eighth grade, students are given numerous tests including IQ, PSAT, and several others to determine which path the student should take and at that point, they take one of the two divergent paths. According to the text, auto workers are held in high regard and their salaries reflect their abilities. I like that idea.

                    • Gary Cooper says:

                      I am okay with career leaning tests given to students to see what career paths they are most likely to choose as long as they are non-binding. Of course, the decision is entirely on them and their parents – key word here as they need to sign off as well. I think this can decrease drop-outs as students are pointed to a more career driven curriculum and know that this type of education will put them on the fast track to a successful and rewarding career. There is another benefit if you go this route statewide as it will attract businesses looking for these skilled workers as they finish up school.

                    • polisavvy says:

                      @Gary — when did they stop giving a career leaning test? My children took them in the 8th grade. Just curious.

                    • Gary Cooper says:

                      I never said they stopped. I actually took one when I was in the 7th grade. I support these tests, but stress that they continue to be non-binding, especially if we ever offer a trade based curriculum.

                    • polisavvy says:

                      Oh, I agree with you Gary. I was just wondering if the tests were still given. My kids are 25 and 24 and a lot has changed since they were in the 8th grade. Thanks for the info.

                    • Republican Lady says:

                      I totally agree with everything that has been said. Some of the technical colleges currently have dual-enrollment programs with high schools where students enroll in the junior or senior high school year.

                      HOPE pays for the program and it gives students an idea of what they will be facing if they decide to go that route. In some counties, the Chamber of Commerce or private organizations offer financial help with textbooks and items like stethoscopes for the Certified Nursing students.

                      The advantage is students can get a certificate in their interest field and after graduation, have a better chance of getting a job. Then if they decide to get more education, the classes taken to get the certificate are used toward the advanced degree.

                      If students want to go the college route, they can, in high school, take advanced preparation courses in the core curriculum and have most of the freshman year of college completed by graduation. The cost is absorbed by the high school they attend.

                    • Republican Lady says:

                      I totally agree with everything that has been said. Some of the technical colleges currently have dual-enrollment programs with high schools where students enroll in the junior or senior high school year.

                      HOPE pays for the program and it gives students an idea of what they will be facing if they decide to go that route. In some counties, the Chamber of Commerce or private organizations offer financial help with textbooks and items like stethoscopes for the Certified Nursing students.

                      The advantage is students can get a certificate in their interest field and after graduation, have a better chance of getting a job. Then if they decide to get more education, the classes taken to get the certificate are used toward the advanced degree.

                      If students want to go the college route, they can, in high school, take advanced preparation courses in the core curriculum and have most of the freshman year of college completed by graduation. The cost is absorbed by the high school they attend.

                  • ByteMe says:

                    Just to clarify what I wrote, I said that I wanted them to have a way that by 11th grade everyone has been segmented into a path. You could certainly start paths earlier, no question about that, but I want the student’s path to be clear by 11th grade.

                    Part of the reason for my distinction is that there’s a lot of growing that goes on between ages 13 and 16 and it’s hard to be positive what you want to do until faced with the choice of “go to college” vs. not. I certainly wouldn’t want to limit my kids before I had to. The classes starting in 11th grade are clearly college-track or not, so that would be the last moment when the choice should be in the hands of the student/parents.

                    And I say “increase revenue” because half the current funding our school budgets comes from the Feds instead of local funding. I also say take the teacher salary amounts out of the hands of the state and give it back to the school districts.

                    And you can’t cut enough admins and support staff to give every good teacher a $10K raise, so that won’t work. It’s a good thing to do in some instances, but it’s not going to make enough of a difference in the grand scheme.

                    Saw a stat that said we are 49th in this country on per-capita tax burden. We’re definitely NOT overtaxed here, but we act like they should somehow be better than the pitiful amount we’re spending on the them.

                    • Gary Cooper says:

                      I certainly agree that there’s a lot of growing between ages 13-16 and what you want to do as far as a career goes changes by the day. I went back and re-read your original post and yes you did state that the path be clear by the 11th so as to decide whether they really need to take the SAT or not. I am certainly in agreement with you on that aspect. I wanted a program that could be started when you are in the 8th or 9th grade with a set of core classes. The curriculum can certainly be tweaked where the core classes are dealt with in the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades along with electives in those certain trade areas. By the 11th grade you have an abundance of choices – stay on the current trade, switch to another trade, go from a trade program to college prep, or college prep to a trade program. By the time you are a senior you will have the ability to take advanced courses or graduate early if you are college prep or join a joint school-business program where part of your time is completing the remaining school courses (if any) and the other half actually working in the field of that trade.

            • ByteMe,

              Education is not valued highly enough in about half the state.

              I don’t know if that was a reference to geography or to culture. It’s false in one case and true in the other. More information, please.

              • ByteMe says:

                Cultural. Not geography. Not racial either. More economic than anything.

                You’ll see it in the Ag areas, in the gang-banger areas… in the areas where parents just don’t/won’t say “you need to get this education so you can get the heck out of here and get a better life”.

            • Teaching is a function of learning. One can attempt to teach all day, but fail completely if nothing is learned. Learning takes place often without a separate person teaching. So, we know that in order to teach one must have a willing pupil.

              We have uneducated teens having babies. Who is going to teach the child that knowledge is important? Not the teenager who dropped out of school and is rewarded for having more children and never rewarded for showing initiative and wanting to do better for herself and her children.

              There is a clash of cultures and the culture of ignorance is winning. It’s sad but it is true.

            • ByteMe,

              I forgot to mention that I like your ideas.

              I also think we need to find a way (meaning I don’t see a clear path to doing so) to elevate the profession of teaching. It needs to be more tightly regulated, closely scrutinized and more highly rewarded and respected.

              • ByteMe says:

                I think it’s “somewhat scrutinized” right now, but just not in the right way that encourages better teaching instead of teaching to a test or cheating the system by changing test answers.

                And I think that having top-down control like we do in this state gets in the way of trying any structural innovation that might help get us to the real goals, which are more graduates and a better-educated work force.

            • 1magnoliapeach says:

              How would one propose to “get rid” of the bad teachers? Please give us something other than test scores of their students! I say get rid of the bad parents, then most teachers could do a much better job if they actually had students who came to school prepared and on time AND behaved while there. To make the “test scores” the litmus test of a “good teacher” just isn’t reality, at least not in my county. Oh, I know we can’t get rid of the parents, but please, they are half the challenge in today’s classes.

              • ByteMe says:

                “Get rid” = remediation via training, then firing if that doesn’t work. Some people are not cut out to be teachers. Pay the ones who are more money.

                If you test kids twice during the year, near the beginning and end, I can guarantee you that after 2-3 years, you’ll have enough data to support whether the teacher is teaching kids up or down. It really is that simple.

                Part of a teacher’s job is to control the classroom; if they can’t do it, they need to find another profession. I’m all for removing disruptive kids from class; that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for an entire class of children who do not show sufficient academic progress during the course of a school year. And it’s complete hogwash if it gets used as an excuse for a second year.

                  • 1magnoliapeach says:

                    I agree with the above in most respects. If only it were that simple. You would be shocked to see how much red tape and how many “strategies” a teacher must develop and implement in the “worst” cases: behavior and academic. And then, maybe after months and months of the above you MAY be able to get some relief for the class via getting the student in a more appropriate environment, that is a big Maybe. Again, I see your points and understand that there are some who need to go, but often too many parents still expect the school system to do their job for them.

                    • ByteMe says:

                      I wouldn’t be shocked at all, and you probably wouldn’t be shocked to find out that some companies operate exactly the same way when it comes to getting rid of a low-performing employee (yes, even non-union companies, for you union-haters out there).

                      And yet the manager of that low-performing employee is also held accountable for that employee’s performance until the employee improves or is terminated. It’s that manager’s job.

                      I’m asking for nothing less.

                      When it comes to students whose brains haven’t fully formed yet, having a clear set of rules and guidelines protects all parties even if most of the work has to be done by the party with the fully formed brain.

                      I understand that some parents do not value education high enough and often view it as day care. That’s the cultural/economic aspects I discussed earlier. They value teachers less than they value engineers and doctors, even though without teachers we wouldn’t get the future generation of teachers and doctors we need as a society. I think we need to start paying teachers like engineers and doctors.

    • 1magnoliapeach says:

      Because we pay our taxes too and if the public schools can’t serve our children, then why shouldn’t we get some kind of credit. IF you have never had a child with a learning disablity or taught one with a LD then I highly doubt you would ever get this. No disrespect intended. 🙂

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    It’s a relatively small program that ought to be eliminated. The GOP has bathered for years that programs ought to be eliminated. They’ve been in the cockpit in GA for over a half dozen years, the state budget is facing a $4B reduction in budget from levels of a few years ago, but can anyone mention any significant programs that have been eliminated?

  5. chefdavid says:

    This is just more shock and awe from the University Presidents. After taken a cursory review of the proposed cuts from the budgets from the state sponsered institutions I noticed something. No big cuts to athletic programs. I saw some cuts to intermural sports. Cutting grass and small things but no big cuts to Athletics. Why is this so I ask myself? The only conclusion that out could come up with is that the outrage from cutting let’s say UGA football would be nothing less than demanding the University Presidents heads on platters. On the other hand when you cut intermurals you make parents and students mad. When you cut 4h you make everyday rural citizens mad. It doesn’t matter or not that you are a land grant university and it is in your charter and in my view football is not. If it is why don’t we have a sports extension agent in my county. So the shock is done. My community is upset. I think more on the the university system than the local legislators. We haven’t had that many famous sports people from here. One of the very few was honored today. The $1000 probably doesn’t mean a lot to the ones who can afford it until you take it away. Then it shocks and awes them. For the less fortunate it does. They probably won’t complain. They will drop out of school. But for the ones that can afford it, that extra one thousand dollars that they didn’t have to pay last year, along with increases in tuition fees, will make them, after they get over the awe, to storm the capitol. Run on sentence intended. Besides, next week we will read an email from an open records request that one president or chancelor or board member sent to Underwood with a “can’t you put some pressure on the legislature…we are dying over here?”

  6. bbqsauceman says:

    It seems to me the $1,000 GTEG investment per Georgia student is a good deal both for the state and its students: students are free to choose the Georgia private college of their choice at a fraction of the cost to the state. It’s a win-win if you ask me.

    I attended Berry College. At Berry GTEG will affect over 1,400 out of 1,800 students if the GTEG is cut.

  7. VeniVidiVici says:

    There is not a single person at Mercer University that pays $37,000. Mercer is very gracious in giving scholarships to those who need and deserve them.

    And as a matter of fact, I do have a job and help pay for my education.

    But of course, if your mother is helping to pay for college because undergraduate degrees are needed these days, but then the lousy board of education implements pay cuts through furloughs, $1,000 is a lot of money.

    Oh, and why should some kid go to Mercer rather than a state school, such as Macon State? Maybe because some students want a challenge. Education is very important and I think the long term return will be much greater when investing in education.

    There are many different ways to cut the budget. What’s more important in the long run: GoFishGeorgia or education?

  8. Romegaguy says:

    State money shouldnt be given to private schools. Ditto for Hope scholarships. If a student wants to go to a private school, they should pay for it themselves.

    • Gary Cooper says:

      I have to disagree with you Romegaguy. I don’t think state money should be given directly to private or charter schools; but I do think money should instead go to the students in order for them to attend the school of their choice. The money is divided out by how much the state says it will take to educate that student and then release a school-only voucher to spend it at the learning institution of their choice – public or private – in their district. Any additional expenses must be paid by the student/parents if their is a difference in costs. If done the right way this practice could work. But that will take longer than a single blog post to detail.

      As far as HOPE goes, I definitely disagree with you. I saw first hand what the scholarship could do for those who chose a private school. The technical school that I attended and graduated from was private (no longer but was back then). Many of my fellow students who otherwise would not have gone to college attended thanks to HOPE, graduated, and now have a successful career thanks to being a part of that institution and having that degree.

  9. VeniVidiVici says:

    HOPE Scholarship:
    “Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship is available to Georgia residents who have demonstrated academic achievement. The scholarship provides money to assist students with their educational costs of attending college in Georgia.”

    Romegaguy, do you still think that because a student wants to attend a private school for whatever reason, they should not receive compensation?

    Public Institutions
    Students attending public colleges or universities receive an award for the following:
    Tuition for number of hours enrolled whether full time or part time
    HOPE-approved mandatory fees
    Books allowance of up to $100 per quarter or $150 per semester

    Private Institutions
    Students attending private colleges or universities receive the following:
    Full-time students: $1,750 per semester, $1,166 per quarter
    Half-time students: $875 per semester, $583 per quarter

    Big difference. I am thankful for the $3,500 that I receive from HOPE and also the money from GTEG. That money allows me to attend a private institution.

  10. Romegaguy says:

    Yes I still believe that it should only be used for state and not private schools. When HOPE was first created it was only for public schools. Over the years since its creation, schools were added because of alumni that were elected or the school was in a certain legislator’s district. I believed then and still do that this was wrong.

    Do you believe that the Federal Government should have stepped in and bailed out all of the private banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers with public money? I’m sure that like you, the CEO’s of those companies for being on the government teat

Comments are closed.