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College facing more cuts

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett legislators are rallying to save Georgia Gwinnett College from severe budget cuts.

Faced with a funding crisis, the college faces the possibility of cuts to a special funding initiative discussed in the higher education appropriations subcommittee, said Rep. Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville, who urged local lawmakers to sign a letter to the subcommittee chairman Wednesday.

"The state has invested too much in the school to throw it away," Coan said. "We've got to do our jobs and be diligent to ensure we have (a positive) outcome."

Because college funding from the Board of Regents is based on student enrollment, a statistic that lags two years, the three-year-old college has been given an earmark to allow officials to hire professors to keep up with growth.

Otherwise, the college would have funding for fewer than 800 students despite a current enrollment of 3,400, officials said.

The $17.5 million earmark in the state's 2010 budget, which runs from July 2009 to July 2010, has already been cut 8 percent, along with all other state agencies. If the amount is cut further, the situation could be "catastrophic," said Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, who was recently appointed the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, although he does not have a seat on the appropriations subcommittee.

"Without this special initiative funding, there is no Georgia Gwinnett College. This is critical," Walker said.

College spokeswoman Merri Brantley said the special initiative funding accounts for about half of the college's budget, with the rest coming from tuition and Regents funding.

In Fiscal Year 2011, which starts in July, the governor proposed a 12 percent cut to the earmark, making it $15.4 million, Brantley said.

Legislators are currently debating the supplemental 2010 budget but must pass it and the 2011 budget by the end of the General Assembly session.