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Update Posted January 18, 2012

Chancellor Addresses Joint Appropriations Committee on Governor’s Recommendations

It was somewhat of a mutual admiration society that convened in room 341 of the Capitol on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, as USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby, along with Vice Chancellor of Fiscal Affairs John Brown, presented the USG FY 2013 budget recommendation to the House and Senate Joint Appropriations Committee. Committee members listened to the presentations from two former colleagues with interest and with appreciation, and the presentation concluded with a round of applause for the Chancellor from the committee members.

Huckaby noted that he understands the difficult work of the legislature in terms of budget decisions. “I have walked in your shoes, though not for very long,” the Chancellor told the Committee, whose members responded with smiles and laughter in recognition of their shared background with Huckaby, who served last year in the General Assembly in the House.

“We appreciate and support the Governor’s recommended budget,” Huckaby said. “I ask for your support. Allocating scarce resources through the budget process is not easy work…. We have a lot of work to do, but we are committed to changing the status quo. Your support and leadership are critical to that effort.”

The Chancellor also told the committee that he recognized the critical connection among: state funding, the System’s stewardship of those funds, and college affordability. “Many students are on the brink of not being able to attend college due to the cost of tuition and fees,” Huckaby said noting that affordability must continue to be addressed.

“Our Board Chair, Ben Tarbutton, has created a Committee on Affordability,” Huckaby informed the Committee, with a goal of keeping college costs within reach of as many of Georgians as possible. The chancellor also said that the regents would be taking a much harder line on fee increases. “Campuses will have to make a very strong case to have one approved,” he said.

Huckaby set the stage for the budget recommendation with a recap of both the current economic climate and efforts he has launched within the University System to meet the goal of creating a more educated Georgia within this new economic and political environment. Huckaby noted that these efforts are being developed and taken under the broad theme of enhancing performance, strengthening partnerships and reinforcing the values higher education provides to students.

Under the theme of performance, Huckaby stressed that the USG understands that when it comes to how well the USG performs, it is “no longer business as usual.” He noted that with $1 billion in cuts, he has advised presidents that they should not expect a return of former levels of state funding and that “the USG must look at every means to use funding more efficiently and effectively.”

As the Chancellor has geared up to operate the System in a new environment, he has brought in new leadership in key staff positions, and begun to integrate the operations and decisions of areas such as academic affairs, fiscal affairs and facilities.

Huckaby also highlighted for the committee other performance-focused efforts, including a more in depth review of new program and degree proposals from the colleges and universities, a plan to use buildings more efficiently, and a review of the architectural design of buildings that will set priority on utility, functionality and cost.

Another area of performance that Huckaby admitted to the committee had “generated some interest around the state” is the regent’s recent approval of his recommendation to consolidate eight existing institutions. In his remarks later in the presentation, Brown said that while consolidation should potentially save money, it is too early to know the amount. Brown emphasized that the goal of consolidation was not primarily to save money, but to better serve students across the state.

The final effort related to performance is Governor Deal’s commission that is reviewing the funding formula. “This reform will include a meaningful performance, results-driven component rather than basing formula funding solely on enrollment,” Huckaby said.

“All of these efforts are to ensure that public funds are used efficiently and effectively,” Huckaby said.

Huckaby also highlighted some efforts to strengthen partnerships. “We have as a major goal, increasing the number of educated Georgians, which means a greater emphasis on workforce development,” he said.

Huckaby noted a Georgetown study that concluded that by 2020, it is projected that over 60 percent of Georgians would need some form of postsecondary certification to meet the state’s workforce needs, but currently only an estimated 42 percent of young adults (ages 25-34 years old) have met this requirement. “Neither the University System or the Technical College System acting alone can meet these manpower needs,” Huckaby said.

Instead, the two systems must work in partnership and to that end, both systems have developed a joint plan that includes an historic new articulation agreement that to date has identified 17 academic courses and will identify more as the process moves forward.

Huckaby also pointed out that both systems are participating in Gov. Deal’s Complete College Georgia (CCG) initiative, whose goals are to significantly increase college completion rates.

“The importance of increasing the education and training level of Georgians has never been greater,” Huckaby said, as he moved into a look at his third broad theme: the value of education.

He cited current statistics that the U.S. Has slipped from number 1 to 15 in terms of the most educated citizenry, behind Korea (number one), Canada, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, France and Israel. Within the U.S., Georgia ranks in the bottom 15, he said.

Despite these grim facts, Huckaby said it is surprising the number of individuals who denigrate the value of higher education to individuals and society. “We know this is not true and we will advocate for the value we provide,” he said.

As he visited the System’s 35 institutions, Huckaby said he came away impressed by the commitment of faculty, and the enthusiasm of students about their institution and their studies. And he said he is convinced that the system is doing a great deal right.

“There is evidence everywhere that we are on the right track,” he said. “Georgia is one of only five states with two institutions — Georgia Tech and UGA — ranked among the top 25 public universities in the country and in recent weeks SmartMoney magazine ranked universities according to the return on investment when tuition and average starting salaries are considered. Georgia Tech is number one and UGA is four.”

After the chancellor’s remarks, Brown covered the specific items in the Governor’s recommendations for the System’s FY12 Amended and FY13 budgets. The FY12 Amended recommendation consists solely of a $33.95 million reduction that, as it carries forward into FY13, totals $38.23 million.

However, the good news is in the governor’s recommendations for FY13, which include full funding of the formula. This totals $113.9 million, including $72.6 million for 3 percent enrollment growth. The total for other non-formula items in Gov. Deal’s budget recommendation is $11.6 million, which includes funds for more residencies for medical graduate students, dollars to increase the number of nursing faculty the System produces, and funds to sponsor cancer research at Georgia Health Sciences University.

The governor’s capital budget recommendations for the USG total $232.6 million. This includes $11.1 million for equipment, $164.5 million for construction and $57 million for other capital outlay projects, including $45 million for major repair and renovation (MMR).

Brown focused the Committee’s attention on the critical need for MMR funds, citing a significant backlog of needed repairs and renovations . “MMR meets the major repair and renovation needs in instructional buildings and associated infrastructure. These type of repairs maintain the safety and integrity of critical facilities systems and components,” said Brown. MMR “promotes local economies through the use of locally based contractors and designers and protects the State’s investment.”

Posted by Sonja Roberts
Published in: Governance