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Six-day furloughs hit GGC

LAWRENCEVILLE - Like other University System of Georgia institutions, Georgia Gwinnett College is implementing six furlough days this school year.

The unpaid leave for employees was OK'd by the Georgia Board of Regents during a meeting Wednesday in Atlanta. The systemwide furloughs, expected to save $42 million, are part of a cost-cutting plan to carve millions from campus budgets.

The furloughs will affect all 40,000 USG employees, except those with an annual salary of $23,660 or lower, and is the equivalent of up to a 3 percent pay cut, a news release states.

'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.'

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 $115 million - 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.

Georgia Gwinnett College employees will take three furlough days before the end of the calendar year and three between January and May, President Daniel J. Kaufman said. The exact dates have not been determined, but Kaufman said the college will schedule no more than one furlough day a month.

"We can't cancel class," Kaufman said, "... and we're trying to be sensitive to the economic impact on our employees."

Additional cuts at the college, which opened in 2006 in Lawrenceville, include 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 college is still hiring faculty members, but the average class size will increase from 16 to 24 students, spokeswoman Merri Brantley said. Some faculty members will move to part-time positions, however, and 16 vacant staff positions will not be immediately filled.

The cuts come as enrollment is growing. There likely will be more than 290,000 students attending Georgia's colleges and universities this fall. Georgia Gwinnett College expects between 2,700 and 2,800 students to register by the end of the week.

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 good news is we have lots and lots of kids signing up to come here," Kaufman said. "(Budget cuts) are a fact of life, and we can manage our way through budget cuts, and we can help grow out of them."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.