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Local colleges dealing with furloughs, additional cuts
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Gainesville State College students John Lemoine, left, and Ryan Robertson use a computer in the school’s student center Thursday afternoon while visiting the school during orientation activities.

Local colleges are grappling to figure out how to deal with state-mandated budget cuts and furlough days.

Employees at Georgia’s colleges and universities will take six furlough days this school year as part of a cost-cutting plan approved Wednesday by the Georgia Board of Regents.

The furloughs are expected to save $42 million statewide.

For now, the state is withholding 5 percent of the university system’s cash, an amount that could grow up to more than 8 percent if state tax revenues continue to plummet.

Many of the measures won’t go into effect until Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office decides how much to cut from each state department and agency. The university system’s budget was cut $275 million last fiscal year.

Kate Maine, public relations director for North Georgia College & State University, said the school is considering when to schedule the furlough days.

"We are looking at a couple different scenarios," Maine said.

The school will take three of the days before the end of the calendar year and three during the spring semester.

The school will no longer try to fill 17 empty positions in an effort to cut costs.

"We’ve frozen all nonacademic hiring," Maine said.

Though the school hopes the changes won’t affect instruction, it is likely students will notice a difference.

"We have reduced funding for our part-time, or adjunct, faculty which we use for core classes," Maine said. "That does mean we will have to look at our schedule and make the best use of their time."

Maine said the cuts are unfortunate because North Georgia prides itself on its small class sizes.

"We’ve increased the size of some (classes) which is really impacting the nature of North Georgia," she said. "We’re trying to protect instruction as much as possible ... We have to stretch our faculty and staff further."

Gainesville State College President Martha Nesbitt said the college has scheduled its first three furlough days for Sept. 8, Nov. 25 and Dec. 21. The remaining three will be scheduled for the spring semester.

Paul Glaser, vice president for business affairs, said the furlough days will account for a large portion of the cuts Gainesville State has been asked to make.

"The six furlough days will amount to a reduction of approximately $500,000, or roughly 31 percent, of the $1.6 million that GSC is to prepare for at the 8 percent reduction level," said Glaser in an e-mail.

Building projects also will be halted to save money.

"There are several minor renovation projects that were planned for the fall that will be delayed due to the budget reductions. In addition, the replacement of some older equipment will not take place as planned due to the reductions," Glaser said.

Faculty travel and library acquisitions also will be severely reduced, Glaser said.

The cuts come as enrollment is growing. There likely will be more than 290,000 students attending Georgia’s colleges and universities this fall.

The increasing enrollment means per-student funding from the state has fallen from $8,294 in 2001 to $7,064 this year, according to university system data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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