To educate Georgians, regents expand distance learning, request $212.7 million in campus construction
By David Pendered
Georgia’s Board of Regents have expanded an aggressive, two-pronged plan to create an additional 250,000 college graduates by 2025.
The goal is to propel Georgia’s population toward the type of education necessary to attract quality employers, as well as to manage civic and cultural responsibilities.
Regents agreed in September to extend to 11 additional campuses the system’s distance education program. The board also adopted a construction budget request that’s almost 11 percent higher than the previous request to the state Legislature.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby has pressed since his appointment in 2011 for new ways to meet student needs within the system’s capacity. In his 2013 state of the system address, Huckaby said, “We do not have the resources to provide every student with every program, everywhere in Georgia.”
The distance learning initiative intends to expand the eCore program to an additional 16 institutions by fall semester 2015. Students have to go on campus to take proctored exams, though the eCore classes themselves are taught entirely online.
eCore enables students to take the first two years of core requirements online, and transfer credits to any institution in the University System of Georgia. Courses are offered in subjects including English, math, science, history and social sciences, according to a USG statement.
The distance learning program now is available at just 11 institutions. Since it began in fall 2000, more than 46,000 students have enrolled in eCore, according to a USG statement.
Incidentally, Georgia Tech has delved deeply into the world of distance learning that’s not part of the eCore program. Tech signed an agreement in July 2012 with Coursera to expand the ability of students to take online courses offered by Tech.
The construction budget request the Board of Regents adopted indicates the board has not forsaken brick-and-mortar campuses.
Regents requested a total capital budget of $235.6 million, which will be delivered to the governor and General Assembly for consideration in the 2016 legislative session. Any funding that is approved would be available in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015.
This budget request represents an increase of almost 11 percent over the regents’ capital budget request of $212.7 million in this year’s legislative session.
Based on the outcome of the 2015 session, the regents have reason to feel comfortable with requesting such an increase. Lawmakers provided all but $6 million of the total capital outlay the regents requested, via the FY 2015 budget and FY 2014 amended budget.
Some projects that weren’t funded were resubmitted in the FY2016 budget request.
For example, regents have requested $19.8 million for a fine arts building at Albany State University. Last year, regents requested $24.1 million for the building. The legislature provided $1.4 million to help pay for a design, which was the same amount and purpose as that recommended by Gov. Nathan Deal.
The University of Georgia’s campus in Athens is slated to benefit from 42 percent of the construction budget request. Regents requested a total of $66.3 million for UGA’s main campus – $49 million for a planned business learning community, and $17 million for an addition to the complex carbohydrate research center.
Funds requested for campuses in metro Atlanta include:
- Georgia Gwinnett College – $11.5 million for phase 3 of Building C;
- Atlanta Metropolitan State College – $700,000 for a student services and success center;
- Clayton State College – $1.4 million for renovations to the academic core;
- Georgia Perimeter College – $500,000 for Alpharetta labs and student learning.
In addition, the regents requested $60 million for major renovations and repairs at sites and campuses that were not specified.