Colleges deal with state cuts

COVINGTON -- Some Georgia college students -- or their parents -- can expect to pay higher fees next year.

On Tuesday, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved a reduction to its budget and an increase in student fees.

The cuts include a 6- to 8 percent reduction -- or between $135 and $176 million -- in the current fiscal year budget. Already, USG has cut $275 million from this fiscal year's budget.

"We are striking that delicate balance between maintaining high academic quality and preserving affordability in these very tough economic times," said Usha Ramachandran, vice chancellor for Fiscal Affairs at USG, in a press release.

As part of the budget plan, effective for the spring 2010 semester, all USG students will pay an increase in the mandatory fee. The fee was set at $100 at research universities and six other universities, $75 at most comprehensive universities and $50 at two-year and state colleges. This is in addition to the current mandatory fee, which went into effect in January 2009; the total new mandatory fee thus will be $200, $150 or $100, according to the release.

The board approved a moratorium on increases for fiscal year 2011 until June 30, 2012, for the total mandatory student fee, except in the case of public and private venture projects like residence halls.

The fee -- which was originally supposed to be greater -- is expected to generate $24 million this fiscal year.

"While the state's budget situation has continued to decline, we were able to revise our 8 percent reductions in a way that minimizes the financial burden on students as much as possible," said Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. in the press release.

The student share of the cuts is 14 percent, said Ramachandran.

"Approximately 86 percent, or $152 million, of the reductions are being borne by our institutions and employees," she said.

The 35 institutions that make up the university system include the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Perimeter College, Gainesville State College, Georgia Gwinnett College, Clayton State University and Gordon College.

"The system and institutions have worked together to find an appropriate balance between controlling costs and providing the appropriate resources to ensure that students continue to receive high-quality instruction," said Ron Carruth, the executive vice president for financial and administrative affairs at Georgia Perimeter College.

"These decisions have not been easy. We recognize the hardships that employees are facing with furloughs and students with increased fees."

Each of the system's 35 public colleges and universities also must save an additional $12 million in either employee furlough days, the elimination of positions, employee layoffs or other program and structural changes, according to the release.

"The economy for Georgia continues on a slow path to recovery," Carruth said Wednesday.

He said GPC already this fiscal year eliminated approximately $8 million, which included 42 positions, and reduced operating expenses, equipment and travel funding.

Based on revenue numbers from the state, he said the college is projecting a 10 percent reduction for the fiscal year. The school plans to cut 8 percent of its budget with mandatory furloughs and a further reduction in operating expenses, equipment and travel; officials still are determining how to cut an additional 2 percent.

"GPC will continue to monitor the economic news of the nation and the state," he said. "We must be proactive and prepare for the possibility of an additional reduction prior to the end of fiscal year 2010."