Room to breathe

Ask the administrators, and they’ll tell you the same thing. At 123 square feet of space per student, excluding living areas, GVSU has only half the average space per student in the state, a shortcoming university officials credit to GVSU’s enrollment boom in recent decades. New academic buildings are both expensive and time-consuming to construct, and the state’s slash-and-burn attitude toward its higher education budget has only increased the hurdles universities face when looking to expand their campuses.

While the project would eat up some of the state’s limited funds for higher education, its construction would fit perfectly in line with education goals that Gov. Rick Snyder ® laid out earlier this year when he called for universities to produce more students in in-demand majors like nursing and engineering, both of which base a significant portion of their core curriculum in the sciences. While GVSU has been seeing rapidly growing numbers of students in science-related majors, which could be a boon if the state switches to a performance-based model of education funding, that interest means nothing if GVSU can’t provide the necessary classrooms and lab buildings to accommodate those students.

In past decades it was the norm for the state to bear the majority of construction costs for new university buildings, but today a request to fund 75 percent of a new construction project for GVSU is a tall order, and one that puts the university in a position where there is little else to do but wait. Despite having enough funds to pay for their portion of the project, nothing can move forward until the state makes a decision on the project that was initially proposed to the legislature under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s reign, a decision officials hope will come within the next five years.

Until then, whether the state acknowledges it or not, GVSU is going to keep expanding. Science-related majors will keep growing in popularity, and the need for more space is only going to increase.