As the budget woes only seem to be growing because of decreased state revenue, legislators are frantically looking to cut “fat” and balance the budget. In the scare that rippled through college campuses across the state, it was proposed by the legislature that the USG might have to cut their budget by approximately $385 million, which is no small feat for schools already hurting from the most recent cuts. On Feb. 25, the school’s presidents were ordered to complete an outline of proposed budget cuts within 48 hours; and Tech was asked to find $38 million worth of possible cuts. Tech’s budget has already been reduced by $54.2 million.
It was recently suggested by members of the Ga. legislature that the cuts will be much less severe than initially anticipated and schools will be able to save some of the items that they had planned to cut, should the cuts go through. In a recent interview with the AJC on March 8, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said, “It’ll be a manageable cut.”
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they hypothesize that the budget cuts will be “manageable” but, my question is: why did it have to it ever have to come down to proposing significantly large cuts in state-wide education in order to balance the budget? And what exactly do legislators feel is manageable?
I do understand that it can be a virtually insurmountable task to try and figure out a way that cuts the state budget by about $1 billion and not make some people very upset. But, I believe that the USG should not have been put in a position where they had to find ways to cut the budget drastically and in a short amount of time.
Education is not a commodity that is expendable and the recent proposed drastic cuts put universities in a very difficult situation where they have to decide what part of our education is superfluous enough to eliminate. Anyone that read the document outlining where each school in the USG would cut their budget knows that there would be some very significant and drastic changes to the operation of Tech if the legislator follows through with the initially states budget cuts.
Although Tech officials tried to best mitigate the cuts so that the impact would not significantly affect the quality of Tech students’ education, they were forced to make decisions that could hinder the growth of Tech and the development of its students.
It is unfair that university presidents were forced to make important decisions in such a short amount of time. Forty-eight hours is not enough time for the university to find inefficiencies within the budget and cut things that might not affect students’ educations. Within that time frame of two days it is only possible to make quick decisions that could be harmful to the education system as a whole. I applaud the Office of the President for suggesting cuts to the Tech budget in areas like landscaping; unfortunately, there is only so much they can cut from those budgeted areas, and they had to propose cuts to vital areas like research assistants and library hours.
It is tragic that a whole university system, and in particular a school like Tech, has to potentially reduce or reverse the growth they have accomplished. It is also a difficult process because we know the immediate results of the budget cuts but we cannot easily quantify the long-term results. Lawmakers should be more cautious when handling the budget, because the results of this decrease in funding for the last year could have a much longer effect than intended if the cuts are not strategically reviewed. If they are not implemented judiciously, the ramifications of the budget crisis could be felt in higher education long after the recession.
As students, it is important that we let lawmakers know how we feel about the potential budget cuts could affect our education. There is no reason why Ga. students should not be able to receive a decent education that is relatively inexpensive without having to worry about the quality of that education receding because of fluctuations in the state budget.
If you feel that cuts to the budget are encroaching on your rights as a student of the USG and as a Tech student, I urge you to contact your representative to let them know your opinion. There will also be a state-wide rally for students against the budget cuts at the capitol on Monday, March 15 if you are demonstrating your disapproval of the proposed budget cuts.