On Sept. 10, the Georgia Board of Regents approved a 4% budget cut for the University System of Georgia for the current fiscal year with plans to make additional cuts the following fiscal year. USG officials said the cuts will not affect classroom teaching but will include farm and marine research.
Though I am happy the cuts will not affect classes, I believe they are still unnecessary and will hurt valuable campus pursuits.
The cuts come as part of a broader order by Gov. Brian Kemp for all state agencies to cut their budgets by 4% this fiscal year and another 6% next fiscal year. Kemp hopes to reduce the size of the state government and secure funding for some of his campaign promises like raising teachers’ salaries.
I understand the government’s wish to maintain a balanced budget and avoid high debts. However, this is currently not an issue for Georgia. According to the AJC, Georgia ended the last fiscal year with a budget surplus, and Kemp received $2.5 billion from former Gov. Nathan Deal in reserves for a “rainy day.” For context, the Pew Charitable Trusts reports that Georgia had enough money in rainy day reserves at the end of fiscal year 2018 to operate for 36.3 days, higher than the national median of 23.4 days. This is also longer than Georgia could operate off of its rainy day reserves at the end of fiscal year 2007, right before the Great Recession began. In short, Georgia has plenty of money as it is, and we do not need to take drastic measures to improve our finances.
In addition, the loss of funding for farm and marine research is a serious blow to students. With less funding, students will engage in less experiential learning. This will limit students’ opportunities to develop their research skills in real-world situations and access to useful resources.
The research cuts will hurt the rest of the state as well. Marine science research helps us to understand the processes affecting our coast. For example, many University of Georgia marine sciences graduate students are studying aquatic ecosystems or the ocean. This knowledge could be vital to forming effective policy for our coastal regions.
Further, decreased farm research will result in lower agricultural production. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, Georgia has a large agricultural sector that accounted for 7% of the state’s GDP in 2018, and the sector is especially important to rural populations, which comprise over 40% of the state’s total population. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says research plays a critical role in the economic growth of U.S. agriculture, suggesting that cuts to research funding could harm rural populations dependent on agriculture.
Research is a central part of universities. It helps students learn and provides important information to the public. Because of these benefits and Georgia’s already strong finances, the government should not force USG to make such extreme budget cuts.