Georgia College Building Boom Skirts Usual Financial Safeguards

Monday, April 23, 2012

At a time when legislators have been fretting over tight budgets, the state's public colleges have engaged in a $3.6 billion building boom through a financing arrangement that skirts the usual safeguards in state government.

The 20 projects begun in the last fiscal year alone added $566 million, and more are in the pipeline. The Board of Regents that oversees the 35 public colleges in the University System of Georgia has another project on its agenda for approval next week, the $21 million replacement of Bolton Dining Commons at the University of Georgia.

These projects, 173 and counting, are at 33 of the 35 schools and involve student housing, parking garages, stadiums and recreation centers. The financing arrangement is designed to avoid the long-standing limit in Georgia law on state debt by setting up new organizations to carry the debt on their books rather than the state.

As large as the program has grown 355 percent since 2002, few people seem to know about it, and fewer still understand it.

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