Student fees fund renovation

Student fees earmarked since 1992 to build a new Student Union to replace the outdated University Center have been allocated from the University Center Reserve Fund to finance two projects scheduled to be completed within the next year.

Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Shanley said that funds will be allocated toward the renovation of Albright Health Center, estimated to cost $850,000, and the transformation of the former Delta Airlines call center into a Student Involvement Center, which will cost approximately $60,000.

The 2002-2003 Student Government Association senators initially passed a resolution to finance $390,000 for the renovations out of the University Center Reserve Fund on Sept. 9, 2002.

President Votruba and staff members reviewed the initiative and determined that additional funding would be needed. They found that new fitness equipment would cost $260,000. The Board of Regents approved this funding, along with $60,000 for the renovation of the former Delta Airlines call center, in November 2002.

Then-SGA President Katie Herschede said the idea was to provide a return on the investment students had been making for 12 years. Since there were no immediate plans to construct a new Student Union, the Albright renovation was conceived as a “great, tangible project we could do to immediately realize that benefit.”

Engineers later determined that an update of the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system of Albright Health Center would be needed, requiring an additional $200,000.

The initial SGA resolution allowed for the additional funding, which was passed by the Board of Regents.

The SGA Senate of 2002-2003 was “very supportive of this project,” according to Herschede. “It was our top priority. We took the idea and ran with it.”

Some SGA members, including Eric Fegan, the current executive vice president, questioned the approval of the additional HVAC funding earlier this year.

“First we were afraid we wouldn’t get a new Student Union built without that money,” Fegan said.

When it became clear that both the construction of the Student Union and the renovations to Albright would be possible, even with additional funding allocated to Albright, a majority of SGA members agreed to move forward with the plans.

Shanley said that a cash flow analysis of the University Center Reserve Fund showed that it will contain “more than sufficient funds” to provide cash up front for the new student union, even after the $910,000 withdrawal.

The analysis proved to university officials that funding the projects would not jeopardize the construction of the new Student Union, Shanley said.

The balance in the fund as of June 2003 is $2.5 million.

By the time construction begins on the new Student Union, the fund is expected to hold more than $3.3 million from student fees.

A two-and-a-half percent tuition increase over the next three years will also go into the fund, according to a March 2003 Board of Regents presidential recommendation.

This increase is expected to raise $2.4 million per year to help support the debt service payments needed to finance the new Student Union.

The new student union is estimated to cost $31 million, according to Shanley.

He said $3 million in cash will come from the current balance of the University Center Reserve Fund.

The remaining $28 million will be financed in bond debt service supported by current UC fee revenue and income from the tuition increase.

Construction on the new Student Union is tentatively expected to begin in 2005 and should be completed by 2007, according to Shanley.