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University system budget cuts will affect many
Officials detail how they will trim $300 million
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Budget reduction information: Learn more about the college budget cuts, including an executive summary of proposed reductions for all of the colleges in the state and an overall summary of institutional reductions. Plus, read a letter from University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. to Sen. Seth Harp and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart.
A plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the University System of Georgia’s budget might mean cutting Gainesville State College’s swimming program and eliminating 20 percent of the courses at North Georgia College & State University, according to a document compiled for lawmakers.
 
And that’s just the start of the cuts.
 
Erroll B. Davis Jr., chancellor for the University System of Georgia, provided a detailed list of $300 million in systemwide cuts to lawmakers Monday. The proposed $300 million in spending reductions is in addition to $265 million in cuts recommended by Gov. Sonny Perdue in his fiscal year 2011 recommended budget.
 
The cuts presented Monday also include closing half of the University of Georgia’s county extension offices and eliminating all Georgia 4-H Club programs, including Rock Eagle 4-H Center. The cuts also mean that some of the state’s largest universities will have to cap or roll back enrollment; some would have to lay off tenured professors.
 
The cuts could mean that more than 250 course sections could be cut at Gainesville State College — the result of not replacing 28 faculty members who teach a full course load each year. Davis, last week, told Gainesville State officials to outline how they would cut nearly $3.4 million in state funding from the local college’s budget.
 
Marya Leatherwood, vice president for academic affairs at Gainesville State, said the cuts could affect as many as 6,000 students, and increase the time it takes to graduate from the college.
 
The school could also eliminate its summer “Steps-To-College” program, which provides early intervention to high school students who speak English as a second language, and mean that physical education swimming courses would be eliminated as well as the ability for the community to use the Oakwood campus pool.
 
However, no layoffs are proposed for the school, which has campuses in Oakwood and Oconee County.
 
“We tried to do everything we could to try not to affect our academic programs,” Leatherwood said. “... Layoffs would be the last resort for us.”
 
Officials at North Georgia College & State University, facing nearly $815,000 more in cuts than Gainesville State, proposed eliminating 20 percent of its courses and two graduate-level nursing programs. The cuts there could mean a loss of 39 faculty positions and affect approximately 900 students, according to the document presented to lawmakers Monday.
 
A North Georgia official could not provide detail Monday on which courses might be cut. Since university officials had only two days to make the recommendation, there was no time for details, said Kate Maine, director of university relations for North Georgia.
 
“The plan had to be submitted very quickly and the time frame did not allow for that level of detail,” Maine wrote in an e-mail. “Everything submitted was based on the general concept that these are steps we would take if we had to implement budget reductions of this extreme.”
 
Leatherwood also said she hopes that the cuts outlined Monday would not become reality. If they did, Leatherwood warned that universities and institutions throughout the state would have to rely more on revenues from student tuition to keep their doors open.
 
“We don’t want to see high tuition rates come into play, because that certainly has a negative consequence for our students,” she said.
 
And though he said the state’s 35 university presidents are prepared to make the cuts outlined Monday, a letter from Davis to state Sen. Seth Harp and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart urged lawmakers not to consider the proposal a recommendation.
 
He said university system officials still were hoping that legislators would not actually cut the system’s budget by $300 million more. Also, the chancellor said the system could not make budget recommendations directly to the legislature; the Board of Regents will make the final decisions about budget actions once it receives its appropriation for 2011. The Board of Regents has not approved the budget scenario submitted to lawmakers Monday.
 
“...We strongly believe that cuts of this nature, if implemented, would severely compromise our ability to provide the educated populace that is necessary for the continued success of this state,” Davis wrote. “... Such a reduction would dramatically and negatively alter a University System in which the people of this state have invested so much; a reduction of this size is not in the best interest of Georgia and its future economic development.”
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