Two key Republican lawmakers this afternoon will make an announcement about the planned cuts to higher education, and speculation at the Capitol is that they will announce that the cuts will be lower than expected. That conceivably could spare some of the more Draconian measures discussed over the past two weeks.
Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland) and Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) will meet witih reporters at 2:30 p.m. today to discuss the University System of Georgia’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Harp and Ehrhart chair the Senate and House subcommittees, respectively, charged with writing the higher education budgets.
Over a pair of budget hearings the past 10 days, the state’s 35 colleges and universities have been told to expect nearly $600 million in cuts to their budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That includes $265 million in cuts as part of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s original budget recommendation, and another $300 million called for by a joint House-Senate budget committee led by Ehrhart and Harp.
Those latest round of cuts have led to recommendations, suggestions or hints that tuition could increase by 77 percent or schools would lay off thousands of employees, close satellite campuses, severely limit incoming freshmen classes and end popular programs, such as a Medical College of Georgia nursing program and the 4-H program run by the University of Georgia.
What exactly Harp and Ehrhart plan to say this afternoon is not immediately known. But it is expected that they will say that the colleges do not need to find $300 million above the governor’s proposed cuts.