Augusta State weighs potential program cuts

School focuses on nonacademic areas, but classes aren't immune

Augusta State University officials met with staff and faculty Tuesday morning to detail potential cuts should $300 million more in statewide funding be slashed.

"You try to keep the institution as whole as possible," ASU President William Bloodworth said at a news conference later in the day, quickly noting the difficulty ASU would face if it had to make $4.7 million in additional cuts for next fiscal year. "We did the best job we could do."

Bloodworth and Medical College of Georgia officials said they were contacted Thursday by the University System of Georgia's chancellor's office and given 48 hours to respond with possible cuts, assuming higher education funding statewide would be chopped by an extra $300 million.

Dan Whitfield, ASU's vice president for business operations, said at the news conference that the university first looked at nonacademic areas.

The list to the chancellor's office included eliminating $400,000 in campus maintenance and improvement projects, reducing $400,000 in equipment purchases, cutting seven campus grounds and custodian positions for $180,000 and cutting three public safety jobs to save $130,000.

Ultimately, Whitfield said, academics had to be examined, including costly programs that had fewer students.

Bloodworth said ASU's nursing program, which would represent a cut of $1.6 million, is one of its most expensive.

"Nobody wants to lose nursing," he said.

The new bachelor of science nursing program, previously an associate's program, started this semester and has 46 students. ASU officials, though, have said about 600 students are taking prerequisites in hopes of entering the program.

Other programs listed as potential cuts were the Continuing Education program ($167,000), the Business MBA program ($400,000) and the drama program ($151,000). The drama program has about 30 student majors and 30 minors.

Bloodworth said athletic programs weren't suggested as potential cuts because they don't receive funding from the state, instead being paid for by student fees.

Bloodworth stressed that everything right now is just a "scenario" that could change as the process moves forward with state legislators.

"It's not done until it's done," he said.

STUDENT PROTESTS

Augusta State University spokeswoman Kathy Schofe said students are organizing two campus protests against the potential $4.7 million in cuts.

One protest will take place about 12:30 p.m. Thursday outside Allgood Hall, she said.

The other is being organized through the college's Student Government Association and will occur Tuesday at the school's amphitheater. Schofe wasn't sure of the starting time.

Some students also are planning to leave ASU early this morning to attend state subcommittee meetings in Atlanta, where the potential cuts will be addressed.

-- Preston Sparks, staff writer

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