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Two Clayton State projects on list of USG priorities

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Two science-related projects at Clayton State University are part of a plan to help enrollment in the University System of Georgia (USG) grow by at least 100,000 students before 2020.

The USG's Board of Regents approved a list of $1.7 billion in facility improvements across the university system, on Oct. 10, which will help the schools handle the growth in enrollment. The system is moving from year-to-year planning for new facilities, to a long-term view, in an effort to use state resources more efficiently.

The announcement of the new facilities planning system came two months after the Board of Regents approved a new strategic plan for the university system in August.

"This allows them [the Board of Regents] to look at the whole university system, and all of the types of projects it has going on, instead of each project by itself," said Diane Payne, a spokesperson for the university system. "They are now looking at what the system needs as a whole to help it grow."

The list of recommended projects that are considered priorities for the university system includes two projects at Clayton State. The renovation of the university's Business and Health Sciences building, and the construction of a new science building, make up $43.1 million of those improvements. The funding for the two CSU-related projects will be spread out across the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.

As projects on the system's priority list gain funding, they are removed from the list. The system's next highest priorities then rise to the top, and new projects are added on the bottom end, Payne said.

Enrollment at Clayton State is expected to reach 13,000 students by 2020, according to university projections. The school has just over 6,000 students enrolled in classes this fall. Clayton State has grown by roughly 1,300 students in the last 10 years. Recent developments at the university, including the creation of four graduate programs and the ongoing construction of facilities, have given school officials reason to believe an enrollment boom is on the horizon, though.

The growth has forced the university to continually erect new buildings, such as a new business building, to meet demand for classroom space. The science-related facilities will primarily help the natural sciences department, which oversees bachelor degree programs in biology and integrative studies. It also oversees seven associate's degree programs, including chemistry, engineering and pre-pharmacy.

The university system will spend $9 million to renovate the Business and Health Sciences building, and the project is among $215 million in capital projects that have been approved by the Board of Regents for funding during fiscal year 2009.

"It's one of our original buildings that was built when the university opened its doors in 1969, and it really is in need of some repairs," said John Shiffert, a spokesman for Clayton State. "We don't have any offices in it anymore, because it's not in the best condition, and it's really only used as lab space for the nursing program."

The new science building is still in the planning stages, when decisions about the size, and location, of the facility are made. This project is currently estimated to cost the university system $33.5 million, with funding of the project scheduled to begin during fiscal year 2010.

Clayton State officials who are familiar with the project were not available for comment on Monday.