Chancellor Discusses Future with GPC Faculty, Staff, Students

09/13/2011
Contact: Beverly James
Phone: 678-891-2686
Fax: 678-891-2966   
Author: Beverly James   

Chancellor Hank Huckaby discussed the future of the University System of Georgia with Georgia Perimeter College President Dr. Anthony Tricoli, faculty, staff and students during a recent visit to GPC.

“The recent visit was a wonderful venue for us to connect with our new chancellor. We not only had the opportunity to learn that some new and exciting system-wide initiatives will soon be coming our way, but we were also able to share some of our most recent accomplishments with him as well,” said GPC President Dr. Anthony Tricoli. “We were also very proud to share a few of our outstanding students and faculty with the Chancellor during his visit.  He heard all about the success that our students are enjoying here at GPC and at their four-year institutions after they graduate from GPC.  Our great faculty had the opportunity to share with him some of the wonderful projects they are currently leading on our campuses and in our communities.

“I’ll say this for sure; our chancellor now knows more about GPC than he likely ever imagined he would know.  Our students, faculty and staff found him very engaging and approachable and extremely supportive of our important access mission. We’re certainly happy he was selected to lead the USG, he was an excellent choice,” said Tricoli.

Huckaby said the system will face a number of challenges in the next few years in light of the recession. “I’m hoping to get the 2013 budget, set at about $102 million, approved.  But in the meantime, you have to know that the HOPE scholarship will continue to face funding issues as tuition increases.  More and more students are going into high levels of debt to get an education.  We have to do a better job of making education affordable,” he continued.

“With the budget shortfalls and revenue going up very, very slowly, it’s even more important to tell our story, Huckaby added. “It’s important that we let Georgians know why the USG is so vital to the state.”

According to the chancellor, he and his staff are working on a communications plan that will showcase the USG and its 35-member institutions.  

GPC faculty couldn’t wait to tout the charms of their home institution.  “This college is the best value you can get in the state, and we have very small classes. We know our students,” said Margee Bright-Ragland, who teaches art and is Faculty Senate chair. “We consider ourselves as part of the team in the USG as we prepare our students to begin careers and to transfer to our sister institutions.”

Added Martin Okofer, who teaches physics, “Our transfer students perform better at their new schools than students who were already there.”

Nevertheless, others wondered how a new funding formula for the USG will affect Georgia Perimeter.

“At GPC we have the largest freshman class and the most transfers in the USG.  If a new formula negatively affects us, it will also affect transfer schools such as Georgia State and Georgia Tech,” said Tamra Ortgies-Young, a political science instructor and master faculty advisor.

GPC staff’s voice was represented by Dede Weber, chair of the staff senate. After expressing staff’s appreciation for maintaining employment in challenging economic times, Weber asked about the future of pay increases. According to Huckaby, higher education is in a better fiscal position than it was twelve months ago, and it may continue to improve as the system moves closer to 2014 budgeting. “I am grateful for the staff’s input because I am inspired by new voices and new ideas,” he said.

Students, too, asked questions of the chancellor. Political science major Floretta Obasuyi, an international student from Dominica, asked if tuition would continue to increase and if the USG would approve more four-degree offerings at GPC

“Tuition may increase, but at a very modest rate,” Huckaby explained. “And we will take a closer look at requests to add four-year degrees at two-year schools.  We have to consider the impact on the budget and on facilities.” GPC now offers two bachelor’s degrees: one in sign language and one in health informatics.

Vilay Sombatsaphay, who came to GPC after serving five years in the United States Marine Corps, said he had to pay out-of-state tuition because he moved to Georgia from North Carolina. While extolling the helpfulness of the Military Outreach Center at GPC, Sombatsaphay said paying out-of-state tuition took a large chunk of his G.I. Bill. “Will you consider a waiver for veterans who move here from other states,” he asked.

“That is definitely worth pursuing,” Huckaby said. “There is a great deal of interest in the Georgia legislature to make Georgia education more available and more convenient for veterans.  So that is an excellent idea.”

Tricoli said that during his one-on-one meeting with the chancellor he was able to communicate his concern that the new funding formula must have more than just one criterion.  “The number of transfer students GPC produces, the success our transfers have after enrolling at senior institutions, and the number of students we admit as freshman or sophomores are all important components of our mission, and I hope these will be considered in the new formula,” said Tricoli. “The Chancellor listened intently, he is very insightful, and from his response I feel certain that he understands this somewhat complicated issue extremely well.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 26,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.