When Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the 2013 state budget Monday, he committed major funding to support Georgia Southern University.
Included in next year’s finalized budget, effective July 1, is more than $2 million to complement a state-of-the art facility currently being constructed on the school’s campus.
Lawmakers pledged $2.8 million to purchase assorted items for the university’s new Biological Sciences Building.
“The $2.8 million will be used for building furnishings and equipment including research labs, classrooms and offices,” Georgia Southern spokesman Christian Flathman said.
The money will be spent purchasing pH-meters, spectrophotometers, drying ovens, hot plates, centrifuges, freezers and other items for the building’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology-inspired lecture rooms and labs, Flathman said.
Construction on the educational facility, paid for with $37 million in state money, began last year and will be finished before next spring. It is 155,394 square feet and will house 10 teaching laboratories and feature 15 research labs. The building replaces an existing biology center constructed in 1968 to serve fewer than 5,000 students. Georgia Southern enrolled more than 20,000 students last fall. Approximately 98 percent of students take at least one biology class before graduating.
“This is an investment in the future of science education and economic development in Georgia,” said Georgia Southern President Dr. Brooks Keel. “This state-of-the-art facility will be a reflection of the importance Georgia Southern University places on providing our students with exceptional research opportunities at all levels.”
Senate budget writers also pledged $500,000 next year for an eminent banking scholar at the university.
State funding for eminent scholars has slowed in recent years as the economy has struggled, but increased funds allowed for a new grant next year.
Flathman said the money will be used to “attract a high-caliber individual in the banking field” for a position dedicated to upgrading the university’s banking curriculum.
“The position, in addition to teaching, will serve as an independent and objective resource for legislators in addressing policy issues faced by rural community banks, especially in areas of regulatory compliance, which places a highly regressive cost burden on smaller banks in Georgia,” he said.
Georgia Southern originally received $500,000 in private support for the position from BB&T in February 2004, and is “excited and thankful” to receive matching funds from the state,” Flathman said.
“We are extremely grateful to the Board of Regents and to Gov. Deal, as well as our local legislative delegation, for funding this position,” Keel said. “We are extremely fortunate to have an outstanding team of local legislators that not only support Georgia Southern, but the interests of Bulloch County and southeast Georgia.”
Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, whose district includes all of Bulloch County, said he supports the budget items.
The funds are “absolutely (a positive thing for the school),” he said. “This was a year in which we were able to have a growth in funding, which always helps schools that are growing rapidly, like Georgia Southern.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.