Gainesville State College officially welcomed its newest addition Friday — the Academic IV Building.
The 135,000-square-foot building cost about $34 million in state bond money, Gainesville State President Martha Nesbitt said.
"Most of the rooms are extra labs or classrooms for students, but it also includes offices for teachers, a media lab and a conference room," she said. "There's also some space in the atrium where students can study, and there is a coffee bar."
This was not a nice-to-have building, it was a must-have building, Regent Philip Wilheit told visitors at the ribbon cutting.
Since 2002, Gainesville State more than doubled its student population. Including the Oconee campus, the college increased enrollment 105 percent, 74 percent of that at the Oakwood campus. However, the Oakwood campus was still serving students in just 43 classrooms. The Academic IV Building alone has 38 classrooms, allowing more morning classes.
"Before we got the building, we had to offer more afternoon classes, which was inconvenient for students who work," Nesbitt said.
The additional classrooms also give more flexibility to add more courses on campus at one time.
"The greatest day in reference to this building was on Aug. 15 when our students attended their first class of this fall semester in a beautiful and functional facility," Nesbitt said at the ribbon cutting. "To say that the college community is glad to have this building is a big understatement — a five-story understatement."
Academic IV received high accolades from visiting government and state school representatives.
"This is indeed a great day, not only for Gainesville State College but for the whole University System of Georgia," University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said. "I know it's been a long time coming but it was worth waiting for."
Huckaby said he felt Academic IV was a "physical manifestation" of the system's motto, which strives to create a more educated Georgia.
"As I walked in, I will tell you, I can't believe we were able to build such a beautiful facility for $37 million. This is a real legacy," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who attended Gainesville State. "It is transforming this campus. It's giving the students hope and opportunity, something they can be proud of and all of us as a community can be proud of for generations to come."
Nesbitt said even before Academic IV was built, the college needed to hire more full-time faculty.
Because of budget crunches, many classes are being taught by part-time faculty.
Student enrollment, however, might increase.
"We can definitely accept and provide good schedules to more students in the future," Nesbitt said.
One of the labs will be used as a reading and writing center so an existing lab can focus on math and science. Nesbitt said students and faculty are "ecstatic" about the new facilities.
"It's important at a commuter institution that students have a place to study and socialize," she said. "I'm pleased to say that all the faculty offices have windows, which they are excited about."
The media labs were highly praised by Jeff Marker, Gainesville State faculty senate chairman.
"While my fellow faculty and I appreciate having things like new offices and a break room here and there, and we certainly appreciate the better coffee, what we see in this building are opportunities for our students," Marker said. "Now our students have access to a studio, sound recording room and media lab that rival any other University System of Georgia institution. Their creativity will not be hindered in the least by a lack of infrastructure."
As Nesbitt finishes her last year as president at Gainesville State, she said wanted to leave a final mark on the campus.
"I definitely wanted to be here when we completed this," she said. "It's a building I first requested in 2002. I knew we would need it by 2007 or 2008."