By Curt Yeomans
Class sizes may increase and administrators may be headed to the classroom, as Clayton State University officials try to absorb a 6 percent budget reduction Gov. Sonny Perdue wants from all state agencies.
As part of the University System of Georgia (USG), Clayton State is one of those agencies that must meet the governor's request. CSU's budget is being cut by $1.67 million, said Corlis Cummings, the university's interim vice president of business and operations.
"We are scrutinizing each purchase, and asking, 'Is this critical to the mission of the institution or providing our core services?'" Cummings said.
At the university, preventative maintenance may be delayed while operational budgets and other expenditures are either watched closely, or decreased, Cummings said. The purchases of new equipment are being limited, and hiring for non-critical, vacant positions has been put on hold.
Gov. Perdue warned university system officials in July that reductions were likely this fall. University system officials immediately began cutting expenditures, said John Millsaps, a spokesman for the university system.
At the Board of Regents October meeting, the state's 35 institutions of higher learning shaved a total of $136 million from their budgets.
Many of the steps being taken by Clayton State are being replicated at the other universities. Many institutions are reducing library acquisitions, lengthening equipment replacement cycles, implementing position reductions, and reducing the number of classes taught by full-time faculty.
"Certainly, it makes it a little harder [to meet the needs of students]," said Millsaps. "The philosophy is to start as far away from the core mission of the university and then move inward. The question is 'What can we do on the outer periphery that has the least impact on our core mission?'"
In recent years, reductions have resulted in Clayton State leaving staff positions unfilled while other staffers had to double their workloads.
"There have been instances where the budget cuts may have had an affect on the quality of instruction and our core academic functions, because we have used a lot of part-time and adjunct faculty over the years, because they're cheaper than hiring full-time faculty," said Cummings.
"Clayton State has been able to cover our courses, and indeed, greatly expand our course offerings over the years, but some of this has been done with part-time faculty," she added.
Cummings said CSU officials do not anticipate cutting any programs, but the university may delay some projects, and programs, because of the reductions. Either way, it would be a road bump for a university, which has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. Five years ago, Clayton State did not offer graduate degrees, but it now has four master's programs, and two more will start up in the fall of 2009. Three more programs are in various stages of preparation.
"I think we all recognize that this nation is in uncharted economic territory," Cummings said. "Like any state entity, we're already tightening our belts. If additional cuts are announced, we will respond, knowing we want to protect our students and our core academic functions."