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Study Documents Need For New University System Facilities

Atlanta — November 19, 2003

Three years of record student enrollment growth within the University System of Georgia have put the state’s 34 public colleges and universities near full capacity - with many more students on the way. As a result, the University System’s Board of Regents will need to start planning now to construct up to 48-million gross square feet of new space by 2020. Those numbers are based on findings from a study on University System capacity by Sasaki Associates, a planning firm located in Watertown, Ma., that specializes in higher education campus planning. The Board of Regents commissioned the study.

“The Board of Regents’ responsibility is to use such data to assess and project the future needs of the University System,” Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith said. “Our ability to meet the state’s long-term needs depends on our planning and decisions now.”

In a presentation to the regents’ Strategic Planning Committee, Vice Chancellor for Facilities Linda Daniels and Director of Planning Alan Travis provided details on the study. The study focused on statewide demographic, economic and planning data that impact public college and university enrollment in Georgia, examined the ability of the system’s existing facilities to meet growth, and quantified the need for new facilities.

“We are almost at capacity in terms of our ability to meet the facilities needs of our students and the state,” Daniels said. “From the fall 2000 semester to this fall, we have added 42,000 students. Models used by Sasaki indicate that by 2020, our student enrollment could grow from its current level of 247,000 students to a total ranging from 345,000 to 486,000 students. The study indicates we need to begin planning now to be able to serve those students.” The study’s findings, said Travis, indicate the University System will need to build at least 20-million and up to 48-million gross square feet of new space to accommodate projected enrollment growth. The System currently has more than 64 million gross square feet of facilities holdings.

While the study found that both student enrollment and construction needs are significant throughout the state, the area with the largest impact will continue to be metropolitan Atlanta, which for purposes of the study included the Athens area. The study projects population growth of 370,000 in the Atlanta region in the18 to 34-year-old age group between 2000 and 2020. Conservatively, this population growth would lead to an additional enrollment of 66,000 students in Atlanta-area University System institutions - a total more than twice the size of the University of Georgia.

A key policy decision the regents must make based upon this particular finding is whether or not to accommodate the projected Atlanta-area student growth in Atlanta-based University System of Georgia institutions or to try to distribute the enrollment demand around the state. This decision will determine the amount of new space needed on the System’s 34 campuses. “The critical board policy question is how and where to increase capacity,” Travis said.

While the study and its findings were presented as an information item requiring no formal action by the Board, it will drive future planning and action at both the Board of Regents’ level and on the campuses, as strategic planning continues to shape the future direction of the University System of Georgia.

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