Honors College’s own building more likely

The Board of Governors approved state funds for a $100 million Honors College on USF’s Tampa campus Thursday, a move that administrators said showed recognition of the University’s space needs.

Construction of the 250,000-square foot building, which still needs legislative approval, would provide much needed classrooms to USF. The University ranks 10th among Florida’s 11 public universities in percentage of estimated space needs met.

“We deserve it and we need it,” Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox said. “We’re at the bottom of the state in space needs met and the BOG acknowledged that today and made it clear that was one of the reasons it was approved.”

With only 43 percent of its projected 2011 classroom space needs met, USF also received approval from the BOG to speed up the timeline for construction on two other projects – a $34 million Visual and Performing Arts Teaching Facility, now slated for completion in two years instead of three, and a $62 million Interdisciplinary Science Teaching and Research Facility, pushed forward from a four-year to a three-year project.

Once built, the space will allow the University to offer more classes and offer them in a sequence that makes timely graduation easier for students, Wilcox said.

“That’s why we pushed so hard for this,” he said.

USF has the largest Honors College in the state, and Wilcox said administrators expect to enroll more students this year than ever before.

“It has everything to do with our ability to attract more and more of the best and brightest,” Wilcox said.

According to the USF’s current Master Plan, the Honors College would be built near the Leroy Collins Boulevard entrance and serve as a gateway building, one of the first structures people would see when they come in the main entrance. Administrators will initiate the design and construction process after legislative approval of the funds, said Carl Carlucci, chief financial officer for USF.

The BOG also reconfirmed funding for a $9 million science and technology facility at the St. Petersburg campus, and utility and infrastructure improvements at the Tampa, St. Pete and Lakeland campuses.

Funds for the Honors College, along with other state Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) projects, come from a pool of state utility tax dollars. Predictions that those dollars will decline in coming years make it likely that construction on the Honors College, as well as on other USF building projects, will take place in phases, with parts of the building constructed and used while others remain sectioned off, Wilcox said.