A few years ago, Governor Sonny Perdue proposed eliminating the Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG). Like many politicians, he figured that cutting this grant that goes to students who attend private college would save the state money. But that’s not always the case.
Our college president and I took a dozen of our students up to Capitol Hill. I’m sure the GOP and Democrat legislators that we met were very impressed with these students, who were well-dressed, articulate, and didn’t shout or chant. The legislators were probably more impressed with the knowledge that cutting the TEG would actually cost the state money.
That’s because each college student who takes TEG to attend a private (and in some cases, a religious-affiliated) college is one less student the state has to spend money to educate. For a small amount, the state can forestall even bigger budgets for public education at ever-expanding and crowded state universities.
So legislators in both parties listened to us and others like us, including many faculty, staff, alumni and students, and did not axe TEG. Subsequent legislative sessions also kept funding for the TEG and resisted the urge to cut it.
But yesterday, the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee surprised many by cutting the TEG from $700 to $500. Evidently, the Georgia Student Finance Commission was shocked by the cuts as well.
I’m sure the bean counters at the State Capitol thought this was a good move and would save the state money, not understanding the cost. But an exodus of private school students to public colleges will necessitate even deeper budget cuts in other areas, or (most likely) tax increases to cover the expected shortfall.
If you agree with us that the potential higher taxes to cover the cost of significantly lowering TEG (which should be strengthened, if anything), please contact your elected officials today at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials/.
Members of the Georgia General Assembly showed us last time that they will listen to us, even though none of us are well known. I once interned for a U.S. Senator, and learned that those who find their voice, in phone calls, letters and emails, are the ones who get heard; most won’t bother to contact their elected officials.
One former state representative told me once that “30 letters is a tidal wave.” In some ways, it is sad that more people don’t take the opportunity to contact their elected officials in this fashion. But for those of us who do care about an issue, it is an opportunity to let them know how we feel, and sometimes see results at the Georgia Capitol.
As for the college students who went, it was an experience of a lifetime. Several have gone off to law school, graduate school, journalism, business, and worked for organizations, conservative, liberal and evangelical, in the community and in Washington, DC. My goal in all of this is for my kids to have the option of such a school when they reach college age.