Sunday Solutions — Oct. 8, 2023

Fall weather is here. Let’s open some windows and air out a few topics: Students loan repayments start – that’s going to affect 1.6 million Georgians. The state wants every senior to know college options, loan or no loan. In the meantime, high school athletes can get paid by companies who want to use their name, image and likeness — almost like the pros. And here’s one to give less air: book bans.

Credit: Unsplash

Student loan payments return

Among several pieces of pandemic aid that sunset this month is student loan repayments. The “hold” on loans affects about 28 million borrowers with a median debt of $21,000. A quarter of those owe more than $46,000. An additional 8 million won’t have to pay yet because of a deferment, and another 7 million are in default. The Biden administration announced some help last week that affects 29,000 Georgia borrowers with $2.5 million in debt. The new program affects public sector workers who have paid on their loans for 10 years. But that still leaves a lot out there. Georgians owe an average of $41,000, the third highest average in the nation.

Finding the right match: As the state continues to expand its economic base, skilled workers are in short supply and last year’s decline in enrollment at Georgia’s colleges and universities is becoming worrisome. In Coastal Georgia, enrollment drops hover around 5% at Savannah State University and Georgia Southern for the past spring semester. The College of Coastal Georgia’s enrollment has been nearly flat, even as the population base has grown. This week, the state announced the Georgia Match programevery high school senior in the state will get a letter from the Georgia Student Finance Commission with a list of state colleges and technical schools he or she qualifies for, based on their HOPE grade point average. The goal is to let students know about opportunities and costs for institutions they may not have considered. Students will be able to connect directly with the colleges to get information or claim a spot in the incoming class. The letters, however, won’t bring tidings from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech or Georgia College and State University — they still require direct applications.

College vs. money decisions: According to the Finance Commission, 26.5% of students who graduated high school in 2021 are working, 10.6% are out of state and 12% are unknown. The Match effort looks to draw some of those students into the state’s colleges. Even with the Georgia’s HOPE program, that might be a tough sell as new manufacturing jobs moving to the state are set to pay more than many that require 4-year degrees. And, the average cost of college tuition and fees at a public 4-year institution has risen 179.2% over the last 20 years, according to the Education Data Initiative. Georgia, with the HOPE scholarship programs, ranks 42 of the 50 states on yearly in-state, public college tuition and fees at an average $7,525 according to But throw in room and other expenses and costs rise to $18,711 a year. The state’s private 4-year colleges are $43,626 on average.

High school athletes cash in

Georgia high school athletes will be able to make money off their name, image and likeness just like their college counterparts after a vote last week by the Georgia High School Association board. NIL is already part of the scholastic athletics landscape in 30 states. Athletes will be able to maintain amateur status if they follow the state’s guidelines about payment, branding and contracts. Those include not using a GHSA school or promoting tobacco, alcohol or controlled substances. The rules also specify the payments to athletes cannot be contingent on performance or as an incentive to stay or go to a specific school – in other words, it can’t be used for high school recruiting. Here’s the story from Capitol Beat. It was a busy week for the high school sports governing board: It also voted to restructure conferences and playoffs, separating out private schools in some cases for championships.

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rooftop solar
Credit: Vivint

From the week

  • Solar leasing programs offered for low-to-moderate income Georgians. If you’ve shopped for solar before, this time could be the charm for many who were priced out of long-term savings with solar before.
  • US House Clerk: Carter didn’t vote on shutdown bill: While he didn’t come out and say he didn’t vote, but Congressional Record stands that U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter didn’t cast a vote last Saturday to end the threat of a government shutdown. He was, however, all over the airwaves and email in support of the bill and former House speaker Kevin McCarthy. But votes matter, and he was among 9 who didn’t.
  • McIntosh open meetings update: Last week we reported that the sheriff kicked the county meetings out of the courthouse over security concerns raised after citizens weren’t allowed to document public meetings on public business in a public building. On Monday, we learned from a post in The Darien News from County Manager Patrick Zoucks that the monthly county commission meeting had been cancelled. The statement said a called meeting could be scheduled, subject to finding a meeting spot and proper legal noticing.

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school library
Credit: Unsplash

Your second cup: Book bans

Banned Book Week has come and gone, but a new survey this week keeps the topic squarely in focus. Public school book bans rose 33% in the last school year, according to PEN America. As most school systems are struggling to bring up reading scores for younger children, others are complicating reading for older students by pulling books off the shelves. The actions limit instruction and subject educators to extreme scrutiny while undermining their expertise. Florida schools are responsible for 40% of the 3,362 recent bans. In Georgia, one teacher was fired when a parent complained about her choice of books despite a recommendation that she continue teaching. The 19th looks at the recent bans, common topics and authors, and the fallout. The chill is real.

Georgia officials aim to open college doors to more of state’s students with mail outreach

According to the commission, 38.3% of the Georgia class of 2021 were enrolled in in-state public schools a year after graduation, but another 26.5% were working, 10.6% were out of state and another 12% were marked unknown.

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Georgia high school athletes now can earn money with new NIL rules

Students entering into an NIL agreement, or a student’s parents or guardians, must notify the school’s principal or athletic director within seven calendar days.

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Solar leasing programs offered for low-to-moderate income Georgians

A new program offers solar panels leases to low and moderate income Georgians

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US House Clerk: Carter didn’t vote on shutdown bill

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter didn’t record a vote on the measure to avoid a government shutdown. Press release from his office says he supports the bill.

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Book bans in schools jumped 33% last year

PEN America found that 33 percent include sex scenes; 30 percent include characters of color or discuss race and racism; 30 percent include LGBTQ+ characters or themes; and 29 percent focus on grief and death.

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State Election Board shelves bid to allow more hand-marked ballots, affirms touchscreen use

Election board member, Ed Lindsey, stated that it would be premature to make a major decision concerning cyber security when the state Senate is planning hearings at which the secretary of state’s office will have to explain their mitigation efforts.

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Judge clears Oct. 1 start for new prosecutors oversight panel

Judge clears way for Georgia Republican-passed district attorney oversight panel to go into effect while district attorneys in Democratic areas challenge the law via a lawsuit.

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Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She is based in Coastal Georgia and has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Contact her at Susan...