During the colonial period, education was in the hands of private schoolmasters. Georgia's first constitution called for the establishment of a school in each county. The oldest school in the state is Richmond Academy (Augusta), founded in 1788. The nation's oldest chartered public university, the University of Georgia, dates from 1784. Public education was inadequately funded, however, until the inauguration of the 3% sales tax in 1951, now 4%. By 1960, rural one-teacher schools had disappeared, and children were riding buses to consolidated schools. In the 1953/54 school year, Georgia spent $190 per white student and $132 per black student. In 1999/2000, expenditures per student amounted to $6,046. Expenditures for public education in 2000/01 were estimated at $9,359,589.
Georgia has a comprehensive pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds, the "HOPE" (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) scholarship program, and special programs administered by the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education. In 2000, 78.6% of the population age 25 or older had a high school diploma; 24.3% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher. The state offers full-day kindergarten statewide, and preschool for all four-year-olds. Every school has a satellite dish for long-distance learning, and computers are being provided to every school, with extensive technology services, both instructional and administrative. The Board of Regents of the state university system also increased its requirements for students starting college after 1988.
The total enrollment for fall 1999 in Georgia's public schools stood at 1,422,762. Of these, 1,044,030 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 378,732 attended high school. Minority students made up approximately 46% of the total enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools in 2001. Total enrollment was estimated at 1,444,937 in fall 2000 and expected to reach 1,527,000 by fall 2005. Enrollment in nonpublic schools in fall 2001 was 116,407. Additionally, instructional services are provided for hearing- and sight-impaired students at three state schools: Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, Georgia Academy for the Blind, and Georgia School for the Deaf.
As of fall 2000, there were 436,555 students enrolled in college or graduate school. In the same year Georgia had 125 degree-granting institutions. In 1997, minority students comprised 31.6% of total postsecondary enrollment. Thirty-four public colleges are components of the University System of Georgia; the largest of these is the University of Georgia (Athens). The largest private university is Emory (Atlanta). A scholarship program was established in 1978 for minority students seeking graduate and professional degrees.