ATLANTA – Mercer University's Board of Trustees, meeting today on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta, approved a $229 million operating budget for 2014-15, authorized finalization of plans and fundraising for a new $30 million undergraduate sciences building on the Macon campus, and approved an expansion of the Savannah medical education facility.
The $229,051,953 operating budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, represents a $6,981,156, or 3.1 percent, increase over the current budget. Trustees voted to limit the tuition increase for Mercer's undergraduate programs to 2 percent, continuing a disciplined approach to holding down costs for students and their families. Students in the Walter F. George School of Law and the School of Medicine will see no increase in tuition next year. Other graduate programs will see tuition increases ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent.
"The University must continue to exercise restraint in what has been an unsustainable trend of tuition increases in higher education," President William D. Underwood said. "This places a greater responsibility on our dedicated faculty and staff to control expenses and find maximum efficiencies while ensuring that the quality of education we provide to our students grows even stronger."
The board authorized the University to finalize architectural and construction plans and complete fundraising for a new undergraduate sciences building that will be located in what will become a science quadrangle on the Macon campus. The approximately 120,000-square-foot facility will be situated next to the School of Medicine and across College Street from the Jack Tarver Library and the existing Willet Science Center, which will be renovated as part of the project. The School of Engineering and the Science and Engineering Building will be the other facilities comprising the science quad.
President Underwood announced to trustees that Mercer has received the first multi-million dollar commitment for the undergraduate sciences building – a gift from Mercer alumnus, trustee and Macon businessman A.V. Elliott. In recognition of the first major commitment for the building, the science quadrangle will be named in his honor, President Underwood said. Elliott, a 1956 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, previously endowed the A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books, funded the Elliott Bell Tower at Mercer University Stadium, and contributed to the Science and Engineering Building that opened in 2007.
The board authorized the University to proceed with expansion of its medical education facility on the Savannah campus. The project involves the School of Medicine acquiring a controlling interest in the Hoskins Research Building from Memorial University Medical Center, as well as modifications to the building to provide for additional research and office space, classrooms, and relocation of the medical library. It will also include construction of a new 31,000-square-foot addition to the Hoskins Building to house medical school exam rooms for clinical training, simulation labs, tutorial rooms, student study spaces and a student lounge.
Expansion of the medical education facility will allow the School of Medicine to increase by 50 percent the number of medical students in Savannah – from 160 to 240 – thereby helping address the state's critical need for additional primary care physicians.
Trustees also at the spring meeting approved several new majors and degree programs across the University.
The School of Medicine will add the Doctor of Psychology/Psy.D. degree to its existing Ph.D. program in Clinical Medical Psychology. The new program, which will be offered on the Macon campus, offers a professional degree based on the practitioner-scholar approach to training and service delivery. Psy.D. graduates are practitioners who are informed consumers of the clinical research literature and who engage in the clinical application of evidence-based methods of assessment and intervention.
The Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics will introduce a new major in entrepreneurship within the Bachelor of Business Administration degree program. The new major will be offered on the Macon campus and is foundational to the School's long-term plan to establish a Center of Excellence in New Enterprise and Economic Development (NEED).
The board also approved two undergraduate majors for the College of Continuing and Professional Studies: the Bachelor of Science in Psychology and the Bachelor of Arts in Communication. The B.S. in Psychology will be offered on the Atlanta campus and as a degree completion option that is delivered fully online. The program is designed to prepare students for positions and careers in a variety of fields and for continued study at the master's and doctoral levels. The B.A. in Communication, which will be offered on the Atlanta campus and at the Douglas County and Henry Country Regional Academic Centers, blends a grounding in the social/cultural with the interpersonal/rhetorical paradigm and focuses on ways in which people communicate within contemporary organizations and society.
Finally, the board approved a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health that will be offered in Macon by the University's newest academic unit, the College of Health Professions. The College already offers the Master's in Public Health on the Macon and Atlanta campuses. The new program will offer Macon undergraduates who are on the pre-med track another health-relevant option, as well as prepare students for other health professions.