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GGC: Jobs could be eliminated

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Proposed cuts in state funding could force Georgia Gwinnett College to eliminate 20 faculty and 12 staff positions and request that enrollment be capped at 3,000 students this fall, GGC President Daniel Kaufman said Monday.

The college's share of a $300 million shortfall in the state's higher education budget would be $2.66 million -- in addition to a previous $4.3 million cut for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1, a news release states.

"An additional $2.6 million budget reduction will move us backward, not forward," Kaufman said. "What is especially painful is that we would have to turn away hundreds of applicants to reduce enrollment to a cap of 3,000."

The college also would delay plans to establish its nursing program, which has been approved by the Board of Regents.

In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on higher education, University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis said last week he charged the 35 presidents in the system to produce a list of additional, targeted budget reductions of $300 million. To avoid artificial scenarios, the presidents were instructed not to come forward with any actions they were not prepared to implement, the letter states.

Davis said he hopes it will not be necessary to reduce the system's budget by an additional $300 million.

"Such a reduction would dramatically and negatively alter a university system in which the people of this state have invested so much; a reduction of this size is not in the best interest of Georgia and its future economic development," Davis wrote.

Originally expecting a fall enrollment of 5,000, including 1,000 students scheduled to move into its new residence halls in August, Georgia Gwinnett College would have to reconsider all its plans if the budget cuts are implemented, the news release states. With a reduction in the number of students, the college would suffer further impacts through the loss of tuition and fees. The residence halls would likely not be fully rented, and other revenue streams would be reduced, creating an unstable financial situation for the institution.

Georgia Gwinnett College, which opened in 2006, is unlike other state schools in that it is in steep growth mode, with enrollment basically doubling each year, Kaufman said. It doesn't have other funding sources such as endowments and research grants, making it more dependent on state funding as it progresses through its early, growth-focused years.

"We have about $160 million in current construction projects on campus," Kaufman said. "This construction represents a huge investment by the Board of Regents, the legislature, and the community. Losing this critical operations funding will set us back severely."

But it is the impact on students that most concerns him, Kaufman said.

"Most of our undergraduates are first-generation college students, and some are here pursuing a career change in this tough economy," he said. "Limiting enrollment will make it very difficult for thousands of students who were planning to come here in the fall."

Georgia Gwinnett has achieved a retention rate of about 75 percent -- an accomplishment virtually unheard of in an access institution.

"Our model for higher education is succeeding and so are our students," Kaufman said. "And in tough economic times, GGC offers cost-effective education in our market for students who want to work toward a better future. These cuts not only affect the college and our students, but the engine of economic development the college represents to the community we serve."