Georgia Public Colleges Grapple with State Budget Cuts

Massage and beauty schools, online universities and other for-profit colleges in Georgia and across the nation are cashing in on federal stimulus spending, collecting $2.2 billion in tuition grants for low-income students, public records show.

That represents nearly a quarter of the stimulus money spent on these grants to date.

The taxpayer-funded grants are flowing to profit-making schools as the government is seeking to revise how those schools qualify for federal aid, partly because of concerns over how some saddle their students with substantial debt. The effort follows a federal report that cited abuses in the recruiting practices of some of the schools.

Georgia’s public colleges, meanwhile, are grappling with deep state budget cuts that are expected to increase tuition costs and class sizes. Some state officials would like to see more stimulus money come to those schools.

"I would be delighted to have this money going to the public sector because I know of the need and the lack of state funds that we have been able to appropriate," said Rep. Kathy Ashe, D-Atlanta, who serves on the Georgia House’s Higher Education Committee and on the Georgia State University College of Law Board of Visitors.

Because of how the government is tracking the stimulus spending, it’s impossible to break it down precisely by state. But the records show profit-making schools that have campuses or corporate headquarters in Georgia have received more than $550 million of these stimulus funds.

Among them are University of Phoenix, American InterContinental University, Royal Beauty Careers and Atlanta School of Massage. Beauty and massage schools with ties to Georgia have received $3.3 million through the stimulus program alone.

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