I received an MA in Religion, with a focus on biblical studies, from a public university: the University of Georgia. When I looked at public colleges and universities in Illinois, only three offered a critical course on the Bible taught within a religion department (Illinois State University, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and Western Illinois University). So I wanted to look at whether a state lint-deep in the Bible belt would offset the cost of biblical studies by offering courses in biblical studies at public universities.
The difference between private and public tuition in Georgia is amplified by the HOPE scholarship, a state lottery-funded scholarship that pays 90% of tuition for students who maintain a B average or higher. Maybe the difference in cost between schools with biblical studies (BS) and non-biblical studies schools (NBS) would not be as drastic as it is in Illinois. As it turns out, while the average cost of higher education in Georgia is lower than in Illinois, the differences in cost are not much better in Georgia. Biblical studies remain accessible to a privileged minority.
Average Cost per School
I looked at 56 colleges and universities in Georgia, 27 of which (48.2%) offered courses in biblical studies (already lower access compared to Illinois, where half the schools were BS):
- Average cost per school: $15,469.36 ($13,398.66 with HOPE)
- Average cost per BS school: $22,381.22 ($21,359.76 with HOPE)
- Average cost per NBS school: $9,034.17 ($5,986.61 with HOPE)
So ignoring HOPE, BS schools were more than $13,000 more per year than NBS schools, a difference similar to Illinois. Factoring in the HOPE scholarship, the difference jumped to more than $15,000 more per year.
Average Cost per Student
Students tend to flock to schools funded by HOPE, most of which do not offer biblical studies. However four schools with high enrollment do offer biblical studies of some sort: Georgia State University (32,082 undergrads), University of Georgia (27,547 undergrads), Georgia Southern University (18,005 undergrads), and Valdosta State University (11,375 undergrads). That means that roughly 37% of students at HOPE-eligible schools have access to biblical studies. Still, these are four of the more expensive public schools in Georgia, so they don’t help to offset the cost as dramatically as one might think:
- Average cost per student: $10,812.03 ($6,446.58 with HOPE)
- Average cost per BS student: $16,227.15 ($11,009.88 with HOPE)
- Average cost per NBS student: $6,642.61 ($2,933.08 with HOPE)
The difference between BS and NBS students here is not as high as in Illinois, but still almost $10,000 per year without considering HOPE, and over $8,000 factoring it in.
Put a different way, without HOPE the average BS student pays roughly 2.4 times as much to attend college than an NBS student. With HOPE, a BS student pays more than 3.75 times as much to attend school than an NBS student.
Even though higher education in Georgia is cheaper than in Illinois and offers significant access to publicly funded biblical studies, it is still a privilege of those willing (and able) to pay thousands more for school. Most schools do not offer any courses in biblical studies, so most students, 56%, do not attend a school that offers them. A higher percentage of students may take a biblical studies course at some point in Georgia than in Illinois, but on average only with significantly greater investment. Biblical studies, even in the heart of the Bible belt and with a state scholarship helping to fund four universities offering BS, is a privilege of those who can afford it.