Salary cuts, $1,000 fee per student, 35 percent tuition increase, and shorter semester hours are just some of the drastic measures on the table as part of the state’s latest budget cut efforts.
University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis presented a proposal Wednesday morning to the Georgia General Assembly. It is part of the latest in the assembly’s efforts to compensate for a loss of $1.1 billion in state revenue for the 2011 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2010.
The assembly is targeting cuts in K-12 education, the health system, and higher education for this compensation, with the main target being higher education.
There’s a constitutional mandate for K-12 education, but not one that requires the state to pay for higher education, according to Senator Seth Harp, Chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee.
VSU relies on state appropriations for half of its budget, according to VSU President Dr. Patrick Schloss. “It’s a balancing act between tuition and state appropriation,” said Dr. Schloss.
Students across the state are protesting the budget cuts, fearing how they will impact the quality and cost of education.
“You have a bunch of people already struggling to pay for college now, and to add another $1,000 would surely discourage them from continuing a higher education,” Antonie Russell, senior theater major, said. “I mean, isn’t that what they want for us? So why make it harder to achieve?”
The Higher Education Subcommittee made its initial demand that the USG create a worst-case scenario last Thursday morning, Feb. 24. The USG was told to plan for the possibility of a loss of an extra $300 million in state funds, on top of the $265 million the governor is cutting.
Monday, Davis presented the subcommittee with its plan of how the universities across Georgia would be able to cope with cuts of that magnitude and what impact it would have on students and the community.
VSU’s share of the projected cuts amounted to $9 million. To reach that figure, VSU would eliminate 22 positions, 11 academic programs, and a number of other programs, such as the Honors Program and the Sophomore Year Experience.
Dr. Schloss presented this budget-cut possibility to a group of faculty, staff, and students Wednesday morning and afternoon during a pair of campus-wide budget meetings. Each session was attended by around 200 faculty, staff and students.
“My goal is to do as much for our students as I can,” Dr. Schloss said. ”At VSU, our focus is to the people we care so much about — the students and those that serve students.”
The proposal currently on the table presented Wednesday by the chancellor would cut salaries of all employees, tack on an extra $1,000 fee per student, increase tuition by 35 percent, shorten semester hours, and an end to the guaranteed tuition plan that many of VSU students still enjoy, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This proposal was another draft, after the Higher Education Subcommittee rejected the proposed plan that Davis offered on Monday. The first proposal did not contain a tuition increase.
A 35-percent increase in tuition would raise VSU’s tuition to $2,697 for an in-state undergraduate student.
The Higher Ed Subcommittee wants $600 million from the USG either by way of budget cuts or raised tuition.
“I believe a tuition increase that makes higher education unaffordable is a problem for the state of Georgia and it’s certainly a problem for me,” Dr. Schloss said.
But a tuition increase is a state-wide decision made by the Board of Regents. The decision to raise tuition will depend on the amount of state funds the assembly decides to give the USG for FY2011.
Tuition increases and budget cuts seem inevitable. According to Harp, if colleges don’t cut budgets, the committee will, and the promise of a fixed tuition is going to be broken.
Universities across the state are going to be impacted. VSU’s budget committee was preparing for a worst-case scenario similar to this last summer when a significant portion was cut from the budget for 2010. VSU’s committee made decisions then that would soften the impact of more budget cuts, according to Dr. Schloss.
These changes to the budget won’t impact enrollment. There is no way VSU would cap enrollment. VSU is a big part of the community in South Georgia and a lot of the economy depends on VSU, Dr. Schloss said.
“For every dollar we spend, it ripples four times through the economy. Our impact is probably $600 million within southeast Georgia,” Dr. Schloss said.
Construction on campus will continue as scheduled. Professors will likely have to take on heavier class loads with an increase in student enrollment in each class, Dr. Schloss said.
The university will continue to monitor class size and time through the backlog system. The system tracks how many students are unable to get into classes during registration, and class schedules are made accordingly. Larger class size does not mean that upper division classes will be offered more sporadically, thus delaying a student’s graduation, said Dr. Schloss.
Right now, everything depends on the final allocation of funds from the state to the USG. From that point, the Board of Regents will decide what’s necessary in regards to tuition raises, budget cuts, and extra fees. That information will then be handed to universities, and the budget committees of each university will decide what the university can afford to lose or to keep.