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GSU eyes building boom
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The Higher Education Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. John Wiles, held a meeting at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro to review capital outlay requests for Georgia’s higher education institutions on Oct. 17. Requests ranged from purchasing land for construction projects to equipping a new allied science building with the latest technology.

Fifteen universities, colleges and technical schools presented their current and projected requests for the next five years to the Committee.  In attendance were the following: Albany State University , Armstrong Atlantic State University, Augusta Technical College, Bainbridge College, Central Georgia Technical College, Coastal Georgia Community College, Darton College, East Georgia College, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Southwestern State University, Moultrie Technical College, Savannah State University, Southwest Georgia Technical College, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography,  and Valdosta State University.

Georgia Southern University, which hosted the conference, requested the renovation of Hendricks Hall ($4 million) in FY2009 and of a biology building ($7.3 million) in FY2014. Southern also is requesting a new biology building ($38.6 million) in FY2011 and a multi-purpose classroom ($21.8 million) in FY2014. These requests total $71.7 million and are spread over the next five fiscal years.

Georgia Southern and all higher education institutions must be prepared to meet the needs of the rapidly growing number of students seeking higher education. According to the Southern Regional Education Board, 426,650 students attended some form of higher education institution in Georgia during the fall semester of 2005.This represented a 3 percent increase from 2004. Enrollment is expected to continue to increase by 100,000 students in the next 10 years.

This enormous influx of students results from Georgia’s growing population, a larger number of high school graduates who are prepared for college, federal and state laws, the HOPE Scholarship and the state of the economy. The difficulty in planning for this growth of students is determining approximately how many students will attend each university, and what the needs of the economy will be at that time.

East Georgia College is experiencing an increasing number of students. East Georgia has grown from a mere 101 students in 1997 to more than 1,200 students in 2007. East Georgia requested $5.4 million for FY2010 for a new Statesboro facility, and $700,000 for the renovation of biology laboratories in FY2011.

Darton College is attempting to fill the current and projected need for nursing and allied healthcare here in Georgia. Darton has almost doubled its enrollment since 1999, and in 2006 alone, conferred 101 Associate of Science in nursing degrees. Forty percent of Darton’s students are nursing and allied health majors graduating in one and two year programs.   Darton has asked for new property ($1.6 million) in FY2010 and an instructional building ($20.2 million) in FY2013.  Darton’s new instructional building will help more students graduate with these much needed degrees, and strengthen Georgia’s workforce as a result.

The universities, colleges and technical schools are actively planning for student growth and the needs of Georgia businesses by tailoring their requests to the current projection of growth, thus ensuring that Georgia’s economy will continue to grow and educational opportunity will be assured.

The Senate will be evaluating the capital outlay requests from colleges and technical schools and considering the priorities in funding in the FY09 budget.

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