Special Institutional Fee
The purpose of this page is to address the continual rise in fees–including mandatory student fees as well as health insurance–and tuition levied against the graduate student body. In particular, this page serves to inform you about the recent changes, address frequently asked questions, and provide a way by which we, as graduate students, can mobilize in response to this issue.
The Graduate Student Government Association (SGA) is working to address this issue, and we welcome the support and involvement of you as graduate students. As a collaborative effort between the SGA and the Tech administration, a document was created to explain the fee and it’s impact on students.
The Office of Institute Budget Planning & Administration website also has additional information about mandatory students fees.
The following sections on this page provide information supplemental to the above links. You will also find a way that you can subscribe to our mailing list and keep informed on the subject. We may also call on you for more direct involvement as the need (and opportunity) arises.
Recent Updates (October 2016)
In 2015 it was announced that the SIF would tentatively be reduced by $100 per year for the next 5 years (you read more about this plan here). Unfortunately, due to a variety of political and budgetary factors, the Board of Regents did not approve the planned $100 reduction this year despite the unified request from Georgia Tech’s students and Administration. While this is disappointing, Graduate SGA will continue to push for a return to the original decrease schedule, and President Peterson and other administrators have assured us that this issue remains a top Institute priority.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Special Institutional Fee (SIF)? What is it used for?
The SIF (also known as Academic Excellent Fee) is a mandatory fee levied against the entire student body to support the academic functions of the Institute. The Tech administration budget site provides an official, updated description of the fee.
- When did it begin?
In Fall 2009, the Board of Regents (BOR) experienced unprecedented budget cuts due to the economic downturn that drastically reduced state revenue, thus resulting in the necessity to levy a fee to compensate for the reduction. The first SIF was set at $100 for the Fall 2009 semester.
- How is this not tuition?
To compensate for the budget reduction, the BOR feels that revenue generation must be shared between increases in tuition and fees. An additional consideration is the economic impact a major tuition increase has on the HOPE Scholarship, which is suffering from declining revenue and increased demand.
- Why did the fee increase?
Beginning in 2009, Georgia Tech experienced significant reductions in state spending that have resulted in Tech receiving ~30% less funding from the state over the course of three years. This has motivated Tech to look for increases in revenue from multiple sources, one of which is tuition/fee revenue. To generate this revenue, higher tuition rates were requested and applied, thus resulting in a significant increase in tuition and a $350 SIF increase.
- Why is this an issue for graduate students?
Whereas tuition for GRAs and GTAs is included as part of one’s assistantship, fees are paid directly out of stipends. For the average graduate student, the increase costs ~5% of pre-tax income with the total fee costing ~8.25% of pre-tax income (assuming year-round attendance). Clearly, the fee increases drastically affect the finances of many graduate students and may threaten graduate student retention and recruitment.
- Who is behind the fee?
Fees and tuition are requested by the Institute and approved by the BOR.
- How is the Board of Regents (BOR) selected?
The Regents are appointed to represent a region of the state (with some at-large) by the current governor for a term of five years. There are now 18 Regents, with one selected as a Chair to preside over meetings and with the Chancellor serving ex-officio.
- What can I do?
Graduate SGA encourages you to give us your feedback by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org,. Also, if you would like to remain informed of developments concerning this issue–and to potentially get involved–please see the “Your Involvement” section at the bottom of this page.
SGA was alerted to this issue in late 2010 and issued several documents that were disseminated to the Tech administration as well as the Board of Regents (BOR). These documents express our unique concerns as graduate students.
- Letter from USG Graduate Leaders to the Board of Regents
This letter was sent to the Board of Regents prior to their April 2012 Board meeting to highlight the burden the Special Institutional Fee has on graduate students supported via Research and Teaching Assistantships.
- Letter from Graduate Student Body President, James Black, on the SIF to Steve Wrigely
This letter was sent to Steve Wrigley, Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration of the University System of Georgia following a meeting President Black had with him to present graduate students’ concerns on the fee.
- Fee Resolution from Graduate Senate
This resolution was voted unanimously by the Graduate Student Senate (GSS) to express the sentiments of the entire graduate student body regarding the increasing burden of mandatory fees.
- Fee Letter from Executive Cabinet
This letter was sent to the BOR and accompanied the fee resolution. It offers a more detailed discussion and several ideas on addressing the issue.
- 2011 Graduate White Paper
The Graduate White Paper is a document presented to the Tech administration each year, outlining the major concerns of the graduate student body. This year, a significant portion of the white paper focuses on the tuition and fee increases.
Next year’s Graduate Student Government (GSG) administration has already committed to continuing to address this issue. Past Graduate Student Body President James Black issued a strong response to the fee increases in his letter to the student body in the Technique:
“Fee increase, much more to tackle in coming year” (The Technique, pg 11)
Subscribe to the Grad Word newsletter to get more dynamic updates on this and other issues. Also feel free to send any comments and personal stories of how the fee affects you to email@example.com,