ATLANTA --- The first question from lawmakers Wednesday to Eroll Davis, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, was about tuition increases.
Davis appeared before a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees as they considered $2 billion in cuts to the state's $18 billion budget.
Legislators harbor frustration over the University System because the state constitution gives them little say over how the Board of Regents spends its money.
Rep. James Mills, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, read back the statistics the chancellor had presented earlier: 42,000 more students, 2,437 fewer positions, including 184 employees who were laid off. Then he asked the percentage increase in tuition.
Davis offered no number, explaining that different schools charged different amounts for students at various course levels.
Mills said he gets phone calls asking why tuition has risen in a down economy.
Davis said he has learned people aren't satisfied by explanations that Georgia's public colleges cost 35 percent less than the median of neighboring states.
"I fully appreciate what you're saying, but I also firmly believe that if you believe education is expensive, then you should try ignorance," he said. "It's a lot more expensive."
During his presentation, the chancellor said Georgia's public colleges have a $12 billion annual economic impact as part of his standard pitch for $1.9 billion in state funding.
He fielded questions about a fee imposed by the regents of between $100-200 per semester to make up for budget cuts.
PRISONS MADE CUTS BUT KEPT SAFETY
Georgia's prison system eliminated 1,550 jobs in six months without layoffs or increased risk to the public, Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said Wednesday.
Every tenth employee of the state works in the Department of Corrections. But the agency has a 12 percent turnover rate among its 14,425 staff, making it easier for administrators to change the assignment of a given job during a vacancy, Owens told a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget-writing committees.
-- Morris News Service