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Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 8:59am

College Luring Students With Free Books

South Georgia Technical College in Americus will provide free textbooks for students starting this fall. The school wants to attract more students coping with declining HOPE scholarship funds.

HOPE grants dropped from 100% tuition support to 90% last fall, and the program eliminated vouchers for textbooks.

South Georgia Tech President Sparky Reeves says the program will cost the school about 400 thousand dollars.

“But we hope to recoup the total cost of that with additional student headcount. We’ll be using the books for the next four to five years.”

The free textbooks will save students up to 300 dollars a semester.

Reeves says it will work the same way books were distributed in elementary and middle schools.

“We have purchased textbooks for every class that we teach. And our instructors will be issuing those textbooks to our students, and then at the end of the term, they will have to return them.”

The money is coming from the school’s foundation and from grants.

After a spike between 2008 and 2010, enrollment at the Technical College System has dropped 12 percent.

Technical System Spokesman Mike Light says that’s partly due to the drop in HOPE aid.

“Also the wobbly economy. We’ve gotten some people back to work through our programs. Other folks, maybe some of the unemployed and underemployed are not coming to us like they were before.”

South Georgia Tech is the first school in the Technical College System to offer free textbooks.

Light says other colleges still offer Pell Grants to economically disadvantaged and low income students. That will pay for tuition and books.

He says all the system's colleges also provide scholarships and grants through the colleges individual foundations.

South Georgia Tech is hoping the free textbooks will boost enrollment there by five percent.

Students will still have to buy consumable items, like workbooks and tools.

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