A “key element” for expanding enrollment and growing Augusta University was approved Tuesday by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to be part of its capital budget request for next fiscal year, an AU official said.
The Regents voted to seek bond funding for a new $70 million building for the College of Science and Math that will allow the school to move from the Summerville Campus to the Health Sciences Campus. The request included for next fiscal year is for $49.4 million in bond funding for construction.
“While it is not a guarantee the governor will include those dollars in his budget and the General Assembly will enact that, we’re pretty confident that the project is good to move forward at this point,” said AU Chief Business Officer Tony Wagner. Previously, $4.5 million had been approved for design, a request for $6.1 million is anticipated for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget and the school would be responsible for $10 million, Wagner said.
The new building will allow the college to grow and also the other three colleges still on Summerville to expand into the vacated space in a plan the school refers to as “Move One to Grow Four” in its Campus Master Plan. As it put together the master plan with input from the public as well, “it really became clear that we did not want to do a lot of additional building on the Summerville Campus” and would focus on renovating existing buildings instead.
Moving Science and Math to Health Sciences takes 1,500 students with it and is a “key element” that allows the remaining three colleges to increase their enrollment as well, Wagner said. In the Master Plan, that would result in almost an additional 1,500 students overall by 2023, a 20 percent increase, but Wagner said the school is already well on its way toward those goals with increases this academic year.
“I think we are ahead of schedule with enrollment growth,” he said.
There are a number of other potential advantages to moving science and math students to a campus that houses Medical College of Georgia, Dental College of Georgia and graduate students and research programs, Wagner said.
AU President Brooks Keel “has talked often about how advantageous it will be to put those science students in the middle of the white coats,” he said. The new building’s fourth floor will for now be a shell for future research space but it will also connect to existing research space on campus that will allow for sharing of some core facilities and potential collaboration once it is completed, Wagner said.
“As we build that biomedical research space out on the fourth floor of Science and Math it will allow for collaboration with our scientists that are already on the Health Sciences Campus,” he said.
Those undergraduate students moving to that campus might also be able to take advantage of student housing there, although Wagner said he believes that housing is full this year. There is room on the campus for additional housing, however.
“We’re using all of the housing we’ve got and the need for additional housing is something that we’ll be watching very closely,” Wagner said.
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