Georgia mulling substantial cuts to higher education

Drastic cuts have been proposed at Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities, including the elimination of programs and the reduction of student enrollment.

Last week, a legislative sub-committee asked the schools to detail how they would cut a total of $300 million from their budgets.

In response, the University of Georgia has submitted that the school would consider shedding nearly 700 jobs. The university has proposed shutting its 4-H centers as well as getting rid of all non-contract faculty. The school has also proposed reducing enrollment by 1,500 students.

Georgia Tech has proposed cutting hundreds of jobs, and slashing admissions by 20-percent, or about 4,000 students.

Kennesaw State would eliminate its Department of Education Leadership, meaning current students couldn’t finish their education majors.

The University of West Georgia would be required to cut $8.1 million from its budget, which could result in job losses, cutting academic departments and majors and eliminating several graduate degree programs.

“These proposed cuts would have a dramatic and devastating effect on our ability to serve our students and the state,” said UWG spokesman Rob Douthit. “We would probably see a loss of enrollment, larger class sizes and more difficulty providing students the opportunity to finance their studies with on-campus employment.”

The budget proposals will be the topic of discussion at a legislative sub-committee meeting on Wednesday at the State Capitol.

The proposed budget cuts do not involve a tuition increase that some in the legislature feel will be inevitable. State Senator Seth Harp says budget reductions to higher education will likely involve campus layoffs, cutting programs, and a tuition hike.

Last week while speaking at a budget hearing, University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis said the worst case scenario would be for a 77-percent tuition hike. Most feel the increase won’t be that drastic.

“There are many of us in the room uncomfortable with that kind of increase,” says State Representative Len Walker of Loganville. “I think a 25 to 30 percent range would be more realistic.”

Lester Perkins, who is nearing graduation at Georgia State University, says any tuition hike would hurt. He’s putting his way through school using student loans.

“It’s a tense situation for me daily,” Perkins says of the possible tuition hike. “Any increase right now is going to push it to the limit for me. I’m 35-thousand in debt right now.”

Georgia’s 4-year schools experienced a 6-percent tuition hike in 2009, a 15-percent increase in 2004.

Any tuition increase will be decided by the state Board of Regents, and that will happen after the legislature finishes with its budget discussions. The topic likely won’t come before the board until it meets in April or May.


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