Cal U will move ahead with delayed student center expansion

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A $30 million student center expansion at California University of Pennsylvania that was delayed for months as the school wrestled with budgetary woes has a green light to proceed, officials said Wednesday night.

The State System of Higher Education is expected this spring to float $28 million in debt for the Natali Student Center project, said Robert Thorn, Cal U vice president for administration and finance. He said Cal U will pay that off over 25 years using increased fees that students already have approved to cover the work.

The balance of the project's cost will be covered by roughly $2 million in campus auxiliary funds, to be used primarily for the building's design.

Word that the expansion and renovation will move forward came during a meeting of Cal U's council of trustees, which also received a report from acting president Geraldine Jones that the school, through difficult spending cuts, has reduced a campuswide budget deficit for 2012-13 down to $2.9 million from $12 million.

University officials pared approximately $2 million from the student center project through moves including a decision to outfit some of the buildings furnishings with equipment already on campus.

The student center work will add to the university's $99 million construction debt load, an obligation that has sparked concern on campus in recent months. But Mr. Thorn said the university can handle the additional debt and called improvements to the 1970s-era building critical to attracting students to a campus that saw a 9.2 percent enrollment decline this fall. "The State System is very supportive of this," he said.

The project is expected to begin in late May and be completed in July 2015. The work will add 31,215 square feet of space to the 97,000-square-foot building and will enable the university to expand and improve services there, including expansion of its dining facility.

education - neigh_washington

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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