Coastal Georgia Plans to Push on; One Regent Vows the Four-Year Program Will Not Suffer under Cuts

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

BRUNSWICK - The scuttling of College of Coastal Georgia's four-year program is on the list of $300 million in possible cuts demanded by a Georgia House and Senate subcommittee.

But even as it identified $2.3 million in cuts, Coastal Georgia is going forward with three building projects totalling nearly $42 million.

College President Valerie Hepburn said Tuesday it's too late to turn back. Indeed, crews have been at work for weeks erecting concrete supports for the $15.8 million Health and Sciences Building that will be the center of the new four-year education programs. Although construction has not begun on $14 million in student housing and a $12 million campus center, a lot of money in design and surveys already has been spent, Hepburn said.

The buildings are all being funded with bonds bought by investors, and the bonds will be paid off partly with student fees.

"Now I may not have any students to stay in my housing," she said. "You can't strip us of our ability to have students."

The list of cuts was released Monday by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. It included dozens of programs that would be cut, beginning at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech and ending with satellite programs on military bases. All 4-H programs and half the county extension offices were listed among the cuts.

Regent James Bishop, who practices law in Brunswick, said the Board of Regents has tough work ahead, but predicted Coastal Georgia's four-year mission will not be held up.

"I can tell you one thing," Bishop said Tuesday, "I'll walk over broken glass to make sure we preserve the mission established here that was long, long overdue."

The Board of Regents had known for years that south coastal Georgia was being shorted in access to higher education opportunities and the advances made in changing Coastal Georgia to a four-year institution must be preserved, Bishop said.

Bishop also said there is not one regent who would begin to compromise the integrity of a university system built over the years.

Bishop predicted that the regents will look at the tuition and fee structure as a way to solve the problem, although that itself is problematic. Gov. Sonny Perdue and many legislators oppose tuition hikes because it would further draw down HOPE scholarship funds that pay the tuitions of qualified students. …