Following the legislature’s restoration of $6.2 million in construction funds for a new academic building at Gainesville State College, the school’s president justified the expenditure by citing staggering enrollment growth at a business breakfast Tuesday.
On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee restored funds for the college’s $31.2 million academic building. House budget writers had reduced the project to $25 million.
At a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday, Gainesville State President Martha Nesbitt said that during the past 10 years, the college has averaged about 11 percent growth each year. That makes the college the fastest-growing institution in the University System of Georgia’s 35 schools.
If the funding had not been restored, she said she would have had to consider limiting enrollment at the Gainesville campus for the fall 2011 semester.
"I can’t tell you how much we need this building," she said. "We are running out of room."
Nesbitt said since she capped enrollment at the college’s Oconee campus, the Oakwood campus has grown 16 percent.
She said she’s been trying to get funding for the $31.2 million academic building since 2002. Gainesville State faculty helped design the building that will house classrooms, labs and professor office space. She said with the design already in place, the proposed $6.2 million cut would have stymied the project.
"You can’t just kind of lop off a wing, you’ve got to go back and redesign," she said.
She said the state funding can’t come soon enough. "If we get the funding July 1, you’ll see people out there with shovels July 2," she said.
Gainesville State isn’t the only school experiencing an increase in enrollment.
Linda Barrow, vice president for academic affairs at Lanier Technical College, said the college’s mission to provide students work force skills continues to draw more students as jobs remain scarce.
"We see folks on a daily basis who say, ‘I’ve been laid off, and I drove a fork lift for 30 years. I don’t know how to do anything else,’" she said.
Barrow said enrollment for Lanier Tech’s spring quarter began Monday. Compared to last quarter, she said Lanier Tech already has enrolled 11 percent more students and boasts 3,342 students as of Tuesday.
She said the college also is in the process of transitioning from a quarterly curriculum to a semester curriculum. Barrow said the school aims to complete the transition by January 2011. A semester-based curriculum will put the college in sync with Gainesville State and high schools to ease dual-enrollment and transfer issues.