College students from around Georgia, dressed in black, protested outside the State Capitol against any possible cuts to higher education today.
Inside, the higher education appropriations committee was reviewing proposed cuts by the University System of Georgia as state lawmakers look to fill a more than 1 billion dollar budget shortfall without raising taxes.
Those proposals include; eliminating entire programs, cutting pay, and laying off faculty. Lawmakers also brought up raising tuition and adding a $1000 dollar fee for HOPE scholars.
Seth Harp, who chairs the senate higher education committee says the presidents of Georgia's universities proposed drastic cuts to programs like 4H, which they know have a strong constituency.
"This is a blending of budget and politics. They were playing a trump card," Harp said referring to the fact that rural lawmakers in particular value the 4H program saying It teachers leadership and agriculture.
Regents Chancellor Erroll Davis says whether the 4-H program survives depends on how deep the budget cuts will go.
"We have not recommended any cuts in 4 H," he says. "They are on a list of potential cuts if we had to make draconian reductions."
Davis gave assurances to rural lawmakers that 4-H would not be one of the first things to go. The state-wide program is run by the University of Georgia.
UGA President Michael Adams says it costs about $6.5 million dollars. He says 60 million dollars in cuts to UGA can't be made up through cuts alone.
"We know we're gonna have to give some, hopefully the legislature is gonna give a little, and clearly students and parents are gonna have to give some," he says.
The Board of Regents sets tuition only after it receives it's portion of the state budget, but lawmakers urged the chancellor to give them an idea of a possible increase.
Meanwhile student groups from around the state are using social media like facebook to plan another even bigger rally at the State Capitol on March 15th.