Over the past week, Gainesville State College's $3.37 million budget reduction plan has been at the forefront of discussion in our community. Gainesville State College, along with the other 34 University System of Georgia institutions, was asked to submit a budget reduction plan totaling $300 million for fiscal year 2011.
As an alumnus of Gainesville State, I was deeply concerned to learn that the college was asked to absorb such a large portion of the burden to balance the state's budget. While no one denies that cuts are necessary to balance the budget, the scope and depth of this cut will impact students, faculty, staff and the community in both the short and long term.
These drastic cuts to the college's budget would come on top of a $2.5 million reduction plan that had already been submitted for FY 2011, bringing the total reduction to almost $6 million. This is almost 12 percent of the college's overall annual budget for its two campuses.
The college's executive council had to make some very difficult decisions as they formulated the plan. With furloughs and other budget reductions already in place for FY 2010, this second round of proposed cuts has gone much deeper.
GSC President Martha T. Nesbitt makes a valid point when she says, "these cuts would cripple our ability to educate and serve students and the community."
These cuts, if implemented, would impact the overall process of educating students, as it is a collective effort of faculty and staff members both in and out of the classroom that helps to ensure the success of the students. If part of the process does not operate effectively, the students and the learning process suffer.
At the top of the list, and most devastating, would be eliminating or not filling a total of 44 faculty and staff positions that would domino into eliminating over 250 course selections and impacting approximately 6,000 students on both campuses. Students would also be greatly impacted by reducing the student work-study program by 50 percent. This move will immediately impact students who rely on this income to supplement the cost of their education.
Finally, reducing operational costs through conservation efforts and the reduction of routine maintenance of major equipment will create very uncomfortable and unattractive surroundings for everyone on the campuses.
With an economic impact of over $180 million, as reported in an April 2009 USG report, GSC is important to the economic climate of Northeast Georgia, and continued cuts of this magnitude will ultimately leave a negative mark on our region and its citizens for years to come.
While we are encouraged by the positive support Gov. Sonny Perdue expressed for higher education in Georgia earlier this week, I appeal to the citizens of Northeast Georgia to continue to rally around this cause and support higher education in our region.
Rich White is an alumnus of Gainesville State College.