Georgia Perimeter layoffs touch student affairs

When Georgia Perimeter students return to campus in August they'll have fewer tutors and less people to answer questions about financial aid or what courses to take.

The college laid off 282 people Monday -- nearly 9 percent of its employees -- and 92 of the cuts are in student affairs. This division includes admissions, financial aid, student life and advising and counseling.

The job cuts are part of a plan to close what could be a $25 million deficit next year. Interim President Rob Watts said eliminating jobs was unavoidable because about 90 percent of the budget is spent on personnel.

"Our first priority in making the reduction-in-force decisions was protecting classroom instruction for students," Watts wrote in an email announcing the layoffs. "Our goal is for these staff reductions to have the smallest possible effect on students."

Tenure and tenure-track faculty were exempt from layoffs. Still, the cuts mean tutoring, advising and recruiting will be reduced at the two-year college. Tutoring is crucial for many of the nearly 27,000 students, especially those who are older and haven't been in school for a while.

"When I first came here I used the tutoring center and I don't know if I would have done well without it," said Jennifer Freeman, 25, who is in the sign language interpreting program.

Georgia Perimeter will reorganize student affairs and enrollment services "in order to meet the service level for prospective and current students," spokeswoman Beverly James said.

The college is projected to end the current fiscal year with a shortfall of nearly $16 million. The deficit could deepen to $25 million when the new fiscal year starts July 1 because the college must close the deficit and repay what it borrows from other schools to balance its books. Next year's budget is $195.7 million.

When Chancellor Hank Huckaby revealed the college's financial struggles May 7 he announced Anthony Tricoli was no longer president. Huckaby appointed Watts, who previously worked at the college, as the interim president days later.

Tricoli, who had served as president since 2006, referred all questions to his attorney who declined to comment. The State Board of Regents did not renew Tricoli's annual contract.

Auditors from the state and the University System of Georgia are investigating the situation, as is the Attorney General's Office. Past audits and other analysis reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show Georgia Perimeter has been overspending for the past four years.

"We pay a lot in tuition and fees and it seems like the money could be better used," said Chelsea Hellman, 19.

Hellman, who is also in the sign language interpreting program, said she tries not to depend on the college for much of anything beyond classes.

Freeman, her classmate, worried the cuts would hurt students looking for a less expensive education. Georgia Perimeter charges $1,235 for 15 credit hours, compared to $2,367 at Kennesaw State and $3,641 at Georgia State.

"A lot of us come here because it's a good school for the money," Freeman said. "I’m paying for this on my own and I don’t want to graduate with a lot of debt."

Georgia Perimeter Job Cuts

Georgia Perimeter College laid off 282 people Monday – nearly 9 percent of its employees – as the college works to cut spending to close what could be a $25 million deficit next year. Here is how the job cuts break down:

By campus

Alpharetta – 10

Clarkston – 105

Decatur – 57

Dunwoody – 36

Northlake – 43

Newton – 26

GPC Online – 5

By department

Academic Affairs – 38

Administrative Support and Plant Operations – 141

Institutional Advancement – 11

Student Affairs – 92

Source: Georgia Perimeter College.

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