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Regents OK $162.9 Million in State University Construction Projects

Wed June 23, 2004 - Southeast Edition

ATLANTA (AP) Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta is all about preparing students for the high-tech world of the 21st century.

Only it doesn’t look it.

The school, like so many others across the University System starving for state money, has had to make do with nearly 40-year-old buildings and antiquated heating, cooling and electrical systems. Corroded water pipes underneath its math buildings damaged the foundation, forcing the school to evacuate students there.

When the school’s eight primary buildings were built in 1962, the personal computer hadn’t been invented. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was only six years old. There was no Internet.

“These buildings no longer support the technologies we need for our current programs,” lamented university President Lisa Rossbacher. “This does not fit the image of the high-tech facilities and instruction we have to offer.”

The university on June 8 received a much-needed boost from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which approved its $30 million request to build a new math and engineering building.

Southern Polytechnic was one of six Georgia universities and colleges that received regents’ approval for construction projects totaling $162.9 million.

Projects from Coastal Georgia Community College in Brunswick, GA, Bainbridge College in Bainbridge, GA, Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta, Gwinnett University Center in Lawrenceville, GA, and Valdosta State University also were approved by board members.

The six projects will be added to the bottom of a Regents Board recommendation list of 16 other projects awaiting funding by the state Legislature. Each legislative session, the list is given to legislators. They typically fund projects from the top of the list down, depending on how much state money is available.

“With the economy turning around, we have a strong desire to go with a very robust capital project request to the Legislature next year,” said Linda Daniels, vice chancellor of facilities.

Ten Georgia university or college presidents made pleas to the Board of Regents to have their projects placed on the list. Most shared a similar story: Increased enrollment and population growth, combined with aging buildings, had created an almost unbearable state of overcrowding.

The schools have tried to make do, stretching class times from early in the morning to late at night and during weekends. But they said there’s simply not enough space.

“This isn’t a case of ’If you build it, they will come,’” said Jacquelyn Belcher, president of Georgia Perimeter College. “If we don’t build it, they won’t be able to come.”