Shortfall prompts GPC layoffs

Alpharetta campus loses jobs

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. — To deal with a budget shortfall, the Alpharetta campus of Georgia Perimeter College has laid off 10 employees and will delay construction of new “wet” laboratories.

The May discovery of a $16 million shortfall in its fiscal year 2012 budget prompted Georgia Perimeter College to institute a hiring freeze, reduce travel spending and borrow funds from other schools in the University System of Georgia. To balance the budget for fiscal year 2013, the college laid off 215 full-time employees and 67 part-time employees, 9 percent of the total staff. Interim President Rob Watts said the reductions are intended to have the smallest possible effect on students.

“We took as many steps as possible to protect the academic integrity of the college,” said Georgia Perimeter Director of Marketing Barbara Obrentz. “It was important to all of us that the academic integrity does not suffer.”

To that end, no faculty members were laid off. The cuts were focused on student services, in particular jobs being done by more than one person.

Georgia Perimeter Assistant Director of Media Relations Beverly James said the 10 employees laid off from the Alpharetta campus worked in enrollment services, the learning resource center, the financial aid office and student accounts. The dean of advising and retention was also laid off.

Obrentz said the remaining employees will be retrained to pick up the slack. All services will continue to be offered, but they may not be at the same locations. For example, an employee at the Dunwoody campus would take on the responsibilities of a laid-off Alpharetta employee.

Full-time employees were placed on administrative leave when the announcement of the layoffs was made June 18 and will be paid until Aug. 17. Part-time employees were paid for two weeks. The college has provided outplacement services, including a job bank and resume assistance. No additional layoffs are planned.

Obrentz emphasized the college is still accepting new students and will continue offering classes in the fall. Until the final fall semester enrollments are made, college staff will not know the effects the cuts will have on class sizes. Obrentz predicted class sizes might increase by one or two students. All classes will be offered, but schedules will vary depending on need.

Closing the budget hole also required reallocating $1 million intended to construct wet laboratories at the Alpharetta campus. These labs require direct ventilation and specialized piped utilities such as water and different gases. Chemistry, biology, nursing and dental hygiene majors include laboratory science courses that use wet labs.

“Students cannot get the science requirements for their programs in Alpharetta in the absence of labs,” James said. “We will need to construct those labs in a future year, but not in FY13.”

Obrentz emphasized the labs have not been canceled, just postponed. She said funding will be made available to move ahead with the labs, but did not know when.

In the meantime, classes requiring wet labs will be offered at the Dunwoody campus.