With Georgia colleges continuing to see climbing enrollment, the University System on Wednesday asked for a boost in state funding as well as $265 million more for construction and renovation projects.
The request, approved by the Board of Regents, will go to Gov. Nathan Deal, who will decide whether to recommend it to the General Assembly in January.
A preliminary count puts the system’s fall enrollment at about 322,000 students, up 1.3 percent from last year. About one quarter of the system’s $8.4 billion budget comes from direct state funding.
The request for new funding is in line with instructions given to state agencies earlier this summer by Deal’s budget office. The administration warned agencies not to ask for new spending beyond what was required by increased school enrollment or usage of the public health system.
The warning came despite the fact that state tax collections were up more than 9 percent in fiscal 2016. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Deal also recently met his goal of banking $2 billion in state reserves. So state government may be in the best financial shape it has been in since before the Great Recession.
“That is good for the state, that is good for the university system,” Shelley Nickel, the system’s vice chancellor for fiscal affairs and planning, told members of the Board of Regents.
The system didn’t ask for additional money to cover growing enrollment in the mid-year budget that runs through June 30. It requested $117 million more to pay for the higher student count and extra retirement system funding in fiscal 2018, which begins next July 1.
Another $265 million in borrowing was requested for construction projects.
If approved, among the beneficiaries would be Kennesaw State University, which would get $39.5 million for a classroom building, Georgia Tech, which would get $47.4 million to renovate campus library buildings and Georgia Gwinnett College, which is seeking $11.5 million for the next phase of an academic building.
The University of Georgia would receive $18.7 million for the third phase of its Terry College of Business complex. The project is expected to cost $140 million, about half of it paid for by the state.
Georgia’s library system is a unit of the University System, and the Board of Regents also requested $21.6 million to build and repair libraries and replace computer equipment. The new libraries that made the cut for the request included ones in Norcross and Gainesville.
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