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Stop killing our future with huge cuts to budgets of Georgia's colleges and universities

Editor:
      Congratulations. Because of your lack of vision, proactive legislation, or any semblance of a real, vested interest in the state of Georgia, you are about to sign the death warrant for higher education in this state. You ignored the state’s low revenue, stubbornly refused to look into an kind of substantive tax increase, and, once again, allowed non-secular groups pressure referendum votes on the Sunday sale of alcohol.
       Since this crisis began two years ago, there have been no realistic or substantial solutions to our state’s $1 billion deficit coming from the state government – the legislature or the Governor’s office.
      You say, “Tough Times, Tough Choices,” yet the only “tough choices” I see being made are impacting Georgia’s educators and students and our state workers. Why aren’t we talking about raising taxes?
      Because that would be a “tough choice” for you, our elected officials – because tax increases are unpopular and may lead to failed re-election campaigns. Perhaps if you were less concerned about popularity or holding on to a “career” as a politician and more about ensuring a better future for our state, you could make the “tough choices” that are necessary.
      How about you stop letting your party ideologies rule your decision making? How about you let go of arcane principles that marry religious or party platforms with legislation? How about you look at this situation and stop limiting your response because the “voting public” may not like it. I’m the voting public. What I don’t like is seeing my state waste away. What I don’t like is watching our education system – across the board – fall farther and farther.
      You want to cut education, but you’re not willing to do away with plans for a horse park? For Golf/Music/Sports Halls of Fame? For a Little League Park? You say these are projects to bring money into the state? Will they bring in enough to counter our $1 billion deficit? Even close?
      I’m not being very articulate here – for that, I apologize. I’m just mad and disappointed. I’m tired of watching my state go down. I’m tired of watching you people muck it up. When I was a college student, some 15 years ago, our state was doing incredibly well. There was a prosperity unmatched anywhere in the Southeast. We were the Titanic of the South – only, we could not be sunk.
      To be from Georgia meant something. It meant a strong economic base (the financial capital of the New South). It meant some of the best educational opportunities around – UGA for liberal arts, Georgia Tech (a school that ranks 12th in the world!) for engineering and a supporting cast of smaller universities and colleges that had exciting, vibrant academic programs. It meant a progressive, forward-thinking culture, a diverse body of people – a state that held on to its better traditions and was acquiring new cultural dimensions every year.
       I don’t see that state anymore. I don’t recognize this place. We’ve just been passed over for much-needed transportation improvements. Our state government still refuses to support any kind of mass-transit system. Our classroom sizes are growing. Our teachers are taking furlough days. Students are fretting over significant increases in tuition. College programs are being cut. Unemployment is at an all-time high.
      This state is hemorrhaging – when are you going to stop it! And I don’t mean asking educators and students – those most responsible for the future of this state – to carry the lion’s share of the burden.
      You’re looking at $1 billion deficit of which $600 million is going to be taken on by this state’s educators and students. Who else is helping? Who else is feeling the effects of these “tough choices” that you seem to make with such ease – as though the USG and BOR are the sole cause of Georgia economic woes. No, sirs and madams, we are NOT the problem. The problem lies in your unwillingness to put yourselves on the line and accept responsibility for your inaction over the past five years.
      Let me paint you a picture of where your “solutions” will lead us:
      The best and brightest educators in our institutions of higher education will be lured away to other states that care about education.
      Many students will be left in the cold in regard to furthering their education as Georgia closes down its Technical Colleges, cuts back funding for two-year colleges, and sets lower and lower enrollment caps on its state colleges and universities.
      Due to a lack of an educated workforce, more and more companies pass over Georgia as a location for manufacturing and corporate headquarters.
      Furthermore, faced with limitations on public transportation, businesses look to Georgia’s neighbors, Florida and North Carolina, to set up shop (this, by the way, is already happening).
      This will be your legacy. Yes, congratulations, you’ve sank the Titanic.
Tyrie Smith
Georgia Perimeter College

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