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College already in a bind when it comes to space

LAWRENCEVILLE - The buildings of Georgia Gwinnett College are stylish and high-tech and sit on a well-manicured campus near the intersection of Ga. Highway 316 and Collins Hill Road.

But there are only three of them. And no matter how new they are, three buildings won't be enough when enrollment at the new school starts to grow. For the first few years the size of the student population will remain largely the same - as new GGC students arrive on campus, students from Georgia Perimeter College and University of Georgia graduate programs will be moving out.

However, by the time the first freshman class graduates in 2011, GGC expects enrollment to be about 10,000 students, 2,000 more students than already share the most cramped campus in the University System of Georgia.

"Over the next few years we're going to be having a little more trouble than other schools," Vice President for Advancement Gordon Harrison said. "I think we're going to have a complex situation."

With the campus' current facilities, there are only 3.3 square feet per credit hour, about a fourth of the state average.

"What it means is we're crowded," GGC President Dan Kaufman said.

GGC plans to expand one of their three buildings to include a 300-seat auditorium and more classroom space this spring. Also, work will begin on a 1,500 car parking garage in December.

But there is still a lot of building to do. Plans are in the works for expanded classroom facilities and laboratory space. On Tuesday the Board of Regents approved a $28.3 million library, slated for completion in Spring 2009. And Kaufman has mentioned the possibility of building on-campus residence halls for students.

"It's like planning a party," Vice President for Educational Technology Lonnie Harvel said. "You don't want nobody to come, but you don't want too many people to come either."

Harvel's goal is to use technology to plan the proverbial party in a way that maximizes space on the physical campus. College administrators hope the technology that has been integrated into GGC's classrooms can help alleviate overcrowding.

All lectures are recorded, allowing students to download them or view them online. In addition, some classrooms are outfitted with a video link that allows one teacher to lecture to more than one class at a time.

Harvel has worked with Vice President for Academic Affairs Stan Preczewski to develop more tech-friendly classroom techniques. GGC pans to make more material available online and to encourage independent discussions between students and faculty outside of the classroom.

GGC classrooms are used continuously from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but that still may not be enough classroom time for every student.

"It makes scheduling a nightmare," Preczewski said, adding that no one wants to be stuck with early morning classes.

So the college will offer some "hybrid" classes, allowing students to also learn from home using the Internet.

Only 20 acres of the college's 170 acres have been built on so far. In about a month GGC plans to start working with the Boston-based design firm Sasaki Associates on how to develop the other 150 acres.

Sasaki has already worked on 17 other master plans for Georgia Universities, Sasaki Director of Communications James McCown said, and integrates building and landscape architecture into its designs.

"This is a from-scratch university," McCown said. "Frankly, we find it a very exciting assignment."