ATLANTA - Angry that college budgets have been cut and tuition may rise if more state money isn't given to public colleges, more than 100 students rallied outside the state Capitol Friday morning demanding better funding for higher education.
Students from 18 public colleges and universities chanted "No more cuts!" and "We vote, too!" as they delivered more than 20,000 signatures begging Gov. Sonny Perdue to ease budget cuts for the Board of Regents, which oversees state colleges.
Student protesters have already met privately with Perdue to complain about the budget cuts that Regents members have said may force a hefty tuition increase. The governor was not at the Capitol Friday to see the larger protest or accept the petitions.
The protesters, mostly student government members, complained that the governor is not taking their complaints seriously. They said the quality of education has slipped in recent years as declining state revenues have forced cuts at all state agencies, including the university system.
"Two years ago our average class size was 35 students. Now we have 70 students in our classes," said Cassandra Lewis, a junior from Albany State University. "The budget cuts are affecting our education."
The students' arguments echoed complaints made earlier by University System Chancellor Tom Meredith. Meredith has said many times that college enrollment is exploding and that Georgia's reputation for good colleges could be damaged permanently if budgets are cut any further.
One student protester, Georgia College & State University senior Adam Edge, was unsympathetic to other state programs that would have to be cut if more money went to colleges.
"Let's tell the state to handle their budget and let us handle ours," he said.
A spokesman for the governor, Dan McLagan, said Friday's protest would not change Perdue's position that the Regents will have to cut costs. McLagan said that colleges have been spared many of the cuts forced on other state agencies.
"Higher education is a top priority for the governor," McLagan said.
Perdue was in Perry for the opening day of the Georgia National Fair.