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GGC employees to take six furlough days

ATLANTA - Employees at Georgia's colleges and universities will take six furlough days this school year, part of a cost-cutting plan approved Wednesday to carve millions from campus budgets.

The unpaid leave for employees was approved by Georgia Board of Regents during a meeting in Atlanta. The furloughs are expected to save $42 million.

Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville will implement three furlough days by the end of the calendar year, and the remaining three will be scheduled in 2010, a spokeswoman said.

Colleges likely will have to cut millions more as state leaders grapple with the worst fiscal crisis in decades. 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.

Additional cost-saving measures at Georgia Gwinnett College will include a delay in filling 16 open positions, moving some faculty to part-time positions, a delay in purchasing library books, deferring some maintenance items to the next fiscal year and delaying some technology and infrastructure changes and improvements, the spokeswoman said.

'The university system is no more immune from the impacts of this economy than any other organization,' Chancellor Erroll B. Davis said after the meeting. 'There will be impacts, but we will try to keep the impacts on students to a minimum.'

Further cuts could mean raising student fees, cutting jobs, laying off faculty and increasing class sizes, according to plans submitted to the university system by the state's 35 campuses. The plans lay out how campuses would cope with cuts of 4 percent, 6 percent and 8 percent.

The board approved the plans, though 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.

Perdue attended the meeting briefly to honor a retiring member of the board but said nothing about the cuts. He left without talking to reporters.

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.