published Sunday, July 15th, 2012

State colleges hiring in economic downturn

ATLANTA — While the rest of state government eliminated 10,000 jobs during the Great Recession, the University System of Georgia added more than 5,000 employees.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports some schools increased staff by as much as 45 percent while students faced larger increases in tuition and fees. Colleges say they needed to hire additional staff to keep pace with increasing enrollment.

During the same period, the state cut nearly $300 million from University System funding, and the system turned to students to cover hiring costs.

Like other state agencies, the University System receives state money, but unlike other agencies, the State Board of Regents can raise tuition and fees to offset cuts.

Kennesaw State University President Dan Papp acknowledged tuition has increased to fill holes in the state budget.

“That’s the reality of it,” Papp said. “Other agencies can’t raise revenue and we can. Tuition helps pay salaries.”

System spokesman John Millsaps says enrollment has increased 17.7 percent systemwide in the past five years. The system has seen cutbacks since the recession.

Colleges have increased class sizes and reduced the number of course sections offered, furloughed faculty and staff and required some professors to teach more classes. Hours have also been reduced at libraries and tutoring centers.

But there have also been gains, including expensive new construction, high-priced administrators, new academic programs and football teams.

State Rep. Bill Hembree said the system should have made a greater effort at cost cutting as other government agencies have done.

“You can’t say just because they are the University System, they are immune,” said Hembree, former chairman of the House Higher Education Committee.

Millsaps said the system is making several moves to make the system more efficient. Schools such as Macon State and Middle Georgia are merging, for example.

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