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Georgia Gwinnett College anticipates $1M to begin staffing

dave.williams@gwinnettdailypost.com

ATLANTA - Officials at Georgia Gwinnett College on Thursday welcomed Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposal to earmark $1 million in next year's state budget to begin staffing the state's newest four-year college.

But political leaders say much more money will be needed soon to make the school ready for the enrollment growth that will accompany its conversion from a satellite campus.

"This is an exceptional situation,'' said Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, chairman of Gwinnett County's House delegation. "The (state university system Board of) Regents, in a rush to get it in, haven't budgeted adequate costs to get a new college up and running.''

The $18.6 billion 2007 budget that Perdue unveiled on Wednesday includes $1 million to hire 15 faculty members at the college off Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville, formed by the governor and General Assembly last year out of the former Gwinnett University Center, a satellite for the University of Georgia and Georgia Perimeter College.

The spending plan also authorizes $2 million for the county to build a library branch in Hamilton Mill.

According to Eddie Beauchamp, who was named the college's vice president for business and finance on Wednesday, the college requested

$1 million in the governor's budget recommendation.

In the Board of Regent's Fiscal Year 2006 budget, money has already been appropriated for the college's first 14 hires, including the president, Beauchamp and another vice president.

The next hire to come, he said, is the vice president for academic affairs. From there, the administration will begin hiring professors in study areas such as education and nursing.

"It helps us continue to grow," Beauchamp said of the Fiscal Year 2007 proposal from Perdue. "This is exactly what we asked for."

While faculty is obviously a crucial component of any college, Heard said Georgia Gwinnett College also has a host of other needs if it is to meet its three-year deadline for accreditation.

The laundry list includes a library and expanded parking on campus and highway improvements in the area surrounding the college.

"We've only got one building out there now,'' Heard said. "We've got to get the whole nine yards.''

Last November, college President Dan Kaufman said Georgia Gwinnett would need about $7 million to

$8 million by this fall, when it takes on its first 250 students, mostly juniors transferring from Georgia Perimeter. He said most of that money would be rolled over from the Gwinnett University Center budget.

Heard said a key obstacle to getting new funding is that the new college still doesn't have a master plan.

"The old master plan was for a university center,'' he said. "We don't have an adequate master plan in place for 20,000 to 25,000 students.''

Kaufman said he has been working on a master plan since coming on board last September as the new school's first president.