Regents will consider hold on ASU building fee

The Georgia Board of Regents will decide this week whether to suspend a new fee intended to support a proposed student center on Augusta State University’s west campus.

The board’s planned vote on the consolidation of eight state institutions, including a merger of Georgia Health Sciences University with ASU, has garnered much attention in recent days, but that decision isn’t the only one that will affect future development in Augusta.

Also on the agenda is a recommendation that the board suspend the collection of a $115 fee designated for a new “Student Life and Engagement Center” planned for ASU’s campus off Wrightsboro Road.

According to the Board of Regents, the fee was initially approved in April and ASU students started paying it during registration for the fall semester. It was intended to be used to support the design, construction and operation of a 58,600-square-foot student center on Augusta State’s west campus.

Board documents state the project developed “many challenges” as it progressed through the review and approval process. The review raised questions about the appropriateness of its location – west campus versus main campus, whether the fee could support the size and scope of the project and whether the project could be sustained without the approval of more student housing nearby.

ASU’s vice president of development, Jeff Foley, said suspension of the fee is really linked to a more rigorous process the board has started applying to all new building projects, which is slowing the approval of construction on campuses throughout the state.

Board of Regents spokesman John Millsaps said the new approval process is one of several initiatives University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby launched in September.

Millsaps said all initiatives are focused on better use of state resources – which includes the consolidation of institutions in some communities.

“A lot of campuses need buildings, and we just don’t have the capacity to do everything,” he said. “All things relate to how we maximize our resources.”

Foley said ASU’s proposed student center is part of a three-building “trifecta” – academics, student housing and the student center – intended to grow the west campus and prepare for swelling enrollment in future years.

“We want to grow to 10,000 students,” Foley said. “That trifecta will really change the nature of this institution.”

He said the student center hasn’t progressed beyond a concept at this point, but that concept includes a building with basketball courts and other athletic facilities under its roof as well as several outdoor athletic fields surrounding it.

Foley said officials will revise ASU’s proposal to construct the student center and resubmit it to the board.

He said should the merger of ASU and GHSU come to fruition, it will not slow development on the west campus but should have the opposite effect.

“It will just reinforce the need for it,” Foley said.

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