Hank Huckaby, who was in the audience as a lawmaker the last time members of the General Assembly met in Athens for issue briefings ahead of their legislative session, told his former colleagues that the system still gets one-tenth of all the money the state collects in taxes even after 30 or so cuts in the system’s budget.
“Are we happy about budget cuts we’ve taken over the last four or five years? No, we’re not happy about that a bit,” he said.
When the economy improves, he’ll ask legislators for more money. In the meantime, he plans to make do with what’s available.
“Will we whine? I don’t know anybody in the room that likes a whiner,” he said. “Our commitment to you, the people of our state, is whatever level of funding you give us, we’re going to do our darnest to spend it wisely.”
One example of stretching available funds is ending the practice of using buildings just a few hours Monday through Thursday. Students and professors will find classes scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons.
“Everybody cannot take a class between 9 and 2 o’clock,” he said. “We can’t tolerate our classroom buildings and laboratories to be basically vacant on Fridays.”
The system is in the process of analyzing the space utilization of every campus building as a basis for considering whether to approve requests for new construction.
The chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, was pleased to hear that.
“That was news to me. I didn’t know they were not going to class on Fridays,” he said. “If the buildings are not being used, they need to be used.”
Rogers also applauded Huckaby’s initiative to target the 1.2 million Georgians who have already completed some college courses and try to convince them to complete their degree. The goal is to boost their earning power and increase the quality of the workforce as a way to attract employers with high-paying jobs to the state.
Some of those students may attend on weekends or online. Huckaby said UGA and Georgia Tech were behind the rest of the country in offering online classes but that he intends to make them catch up.