State colleges, universities hit with furloughs

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By Carl Lewis

Aug. 13, 2009

Public college students in the midstate may experience canceled classes, longer lines at the cafeteria and less one-on-one time with their professors this fall.Picture 5

As part of a new cost-cutting measure approved Wednesday by the Georgia Board of Regents, faculty and staff at Georgia’s colleges and universities will take six furlough days during the upcoming academic year. The measure is expected to save the state $42 million.

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

Still, it won’t be easy to cushion all students from the cuts.

At Fort Valley State University, officials will most likely close the campus altogether during the furlough days, spokeswoman Vickie Oldham said.

“Closing down is something we hate to do, but it’s best to do it that way because it saves on energy and utility costs,” Oldham said.

Terrance Smith, FVSU’s vice president of student affairs, said he hopes the university won’t be forced to shut down. If it does, officials will try to schedule closures during days that will impact students the least, he said.

“We’re looking at maybe a day or two during the Thanksgiving holiday or Christmas break,” Smith said.

At Macon State College, classes won’t be canceled, but students could have a harder time scheduling appointments with their academic advisers, spokesman Bill Weaver said.

“We’re hoping the impact upon students will be negligible ... but it is possible that there could be some very minimal time delays in getting seen,” he said.

Weaver said Macon State officials are trying to schedule professors’ days off during weekdays when they don’t teach classes, but plans are still preliminary.

“There’s a lot of things we don’t know yet. Does everybody have to take the same day off? Could we take half days?” Weaver said.

At Middle Georgia College in Cochran, quality of student services will be impacted across the board, President Michael Stoy said.

“It’s going to cause us to stagger our workload, which could cause students to see longer lines at places like the registrar’s office,” Stoy said.

Georgia College & State University hasn’t decided yet how it will implement the furloughs, but university operations will be impacted significantly, Georgia College President Dorothy Leland said.

“Collectively, the furloughs represent the loss of approximately 37,000 people hours during the fiscal year,” Leland said. “Our challenge is to find ways to continue to operate the university effectively and educate its students under these circumstances.”

Leland said she’s confident Georgia College faculty and staff will pull together during these tough times and find creative ways to do as little harm to the university’s 6,600 students as possible.

“Fortunately, the university has a history of people pulling together,” Leland said. “There is a creative, entrepreneurial spirit here. I’m confident we’ll figure it out.”

To contact writer Carl Lewis, call 744-4347.

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