Facing as much as a 10-percent reduction in state funding for this academic school year, all of Georgia's technical colleges are implementing a four day work week for its employees as part of an overall cost reduction plan. Ogeechee Technical College enacted its new work schedule last week.
"By going to a shorter work week, we estimate saving around $163,000 in energy costs alone," said Dawn Cartee, president of Ogeechee Tech. "We had to cut eight percent from our budget for the academic 2008 - 2009 school year. Honestly, we are expecting as much as a ten percent reduction in funding when all is said and done."
Cartee said employees are working ten hour days Monday through Thursday. "The school itself is open from eight in the morning until ten at night. Now the business offices are going to be open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. It's a long day, but everyone understands that cuts have to be made, and this is one way to do that."
The Technical College System of Georgia, as well as other state agencies, is considering cost savings measures which have the least impact on the public, and in the case of technical colleges, the students. Four day work weeks were proposed by TCSG because many classes aren't held on Friday anyway, and the idea of having school just four days per week should be appealing to most students.
Barry Turner, executive director for public relations at the college, said the new business hours should provide more flexibility for those who need the college's services after typical business hours.
"There are many instances when students would have to leave work early to get to the business office, admissions, or financial aid offices by 5:00 pm," Turner said. "Now they won't have to do that, because those will still be open. We hope this will provide added convenience to our students."
Julia Gay is a veterinary technology student at Ogeechee Tech. She said she and her fellow students aren't quite sure how things are going to be with the new schedule, but they are hopeful.
"Nobody really knows how they will be affected, but many people like the compressed week of classes and one less round trip to school which will save gasoline," Gay said. "At times, it will be stressful, because you have to cram more class time into fewer days. But, I don't think it will be that bad."
Cartee said the goal of the four day schedule is to reduce the cost of utilities by shutting down any non-essential systems on Thursday night following the last class. The campuses vital components will still be maintained--computer servers, alarm systems, security lights, etc. Cartee said other cuts have been made as well.
"We eliminated any job vacancies, and unfortunately, had to make staff changes," she said. "We eliminated two full time positions, four part time positions, and cut back some full to part time. In addition, we have cut operating anywhere that we could without reducing services to the students. We have slashed the travel budget."
Cartee said if additional budget cuts are mandated, then a small employee furlough may have to be implemented.
"It may be that everyone has to take three or four unpaid days off this year stretched over a few months," she said. "That certainly may be a possibility. We have been straightforward with everyone here. They now the financial difficulties that we and all of the other technical colleges are facing, and we will do whatever we have to do to continue to operate. Students will not see a change in quality or the services we provide."
Turner said there are 145 full time employees and over 200,000 square feet of facilities to maintain. "It is a large operation, and just cutting back one day is going to make a huge difference."
Employees seem to be adjusting after dealing with the logistics of a longer day requiring child care adjustments in some cases.
"We now have a four - ten work week which is four days at ten hours a day," Cartee said. "We have created a four - ten diner of sorts whereby at 5:30 in the afternoon, we bring in some food and share and have fellowship. It helps to keep peoples' minds off of why we are really having to do this."
Cartee said all changes that have been made will be in force October 1.