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New college library leaps to top of list

ATLANTA - A library for Georgia Gwinnett College could be built years ahead of schedule if the state Board of Regents adopts a new prioritizing approach that stresses the university system's most pressing needs.

The $28.3 million project was among seven recommended to the board Tuesday. Board members will vote on the list in August and submit it to Gov. Sonny Perdue for inclusion in the fiscal 2008 budget.

The new list includes the four highest-ranking projects on the system's current priority list: academic buildings at Savannah State University and Fort Valley State University, a science and conference center at Macon State College and a new building for the University of Georgia's College of Pharmacy.

But the 23rd-ranked project also landed on the list - a School of Dentistry building at the Medical College of Georgia - and the Georgia Gwinnett library and a health sciences building at Kennesaw State University weren't even on the current list.

"What they're doing is accommodating new realities, and the reality is we have a new college,'' said Dan Kaufman, president of Georgia Gwinnett College. "The model understands changes in the strategic environment and tries to accommodate them.''

Linda Daniels, the university system's vice chancellor for facilities, said the new method of setting priorities is in response to a growing backlog of building projects that have been added to the list during the past three years but not funded.

By the six or seven years it takes projects at the bottom of the list to work their way to the top, they may no longer be the system's most urgent needs, she said.

"We don't want to imply that those projects don't have merit,'' she said. "But they do need to be prioritized based on changing conditions over time.''

Kaufman said Georgia Gwinnett needs a library sooner rather than later not just because of the learning environment libraries provide to any college campus.

He said having a library is critical to the new school earning accreditation status, which - in turn - is vital to GGC's students qualifying for financial aid.

"It's a catch-22,'' Kaufman said. "You cannot apply for accreditation until you have students enrolled. However, if you go to a college that's not accredited, you can't get financial aid.''

Kaufman said construction on the library could begin by the fall of next year, if the governor and General Assembly approve the project. He said that would allow the school's accreditation paperwork to get into the pipeline in time for the first freshman class, which will start that semester.

Georgia Gwinnett's first students, 150 to 200 juniors, will begin classes in August.