Nicholls continues campus upgrades

President outlines funding sources, emphasizes necessity for recruitment

THIBODAUX – Despite four years of state budget cuts, Nicholls State University has been able to move forward with several campus construction projects funded by self-assessed student fees, restricted state allocations and targeted donations – funds that, by state policy, cannot be used to offset budget reductions.

“If Nicholls is to continue as the Bayou Region’s university of choice, then these campus projects are not only desirable, but they are also necessary,” Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president, said. “I understand how a taxpayer, after reading or hearing about the catastrophic state cuts to higher education, might look at our new recreation center and perceive a contradiction in priorities. The reality is that we are not permitted to take one dollar from such projects to balance our operating budget. Fortunately, we believe these projects will help Nicholls recruit and retain more students, which in turn will help ease our financial burden.”

Current university projects and their funding sources include:

The Harold J. Callais Memorial Recreation Center 

Located near the intersection of Bowie Road and Ardoyne Drive, the recreation center has been constructed with funds generated by a self-assessed student fee approved by students in spring 2003. Its daily operation will be funded by a new self-assessed student fee, beginning this fall, as well as by memberships sold to groups with a strong association to Nicholls – including faculty, staff and retirees.

“We anticipate a grand opening shortly after Labor Day,” Hulbert said. “Student leaders who have recently toured the building were impressed with its size, quality of construction and the health opportunities it will provide to all students. The rec center will be a tremendous addition to our campus.”

New Culinary Arts Building

Construction of a new culinary facility, located near the intersection of Highway 1 and Bowie Road, will be funded via $8.1 million from the state – generated through the selling of restricted bonds – and $4.5 million in cash and equipment donated from the private sector. The process of securing the necessary public and private financial commitments to build the facility has taken more than seven years.

“Enrollment in the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute has grown from about 50 students in 1997 to about 300 today, yet students are still using the limited space of Gouaux Hall,” Hulbert said. “We simply need more room. Moreover, future funding of Nicholls will depend upon enrollment; therefore we are quite excited that our new facility will be able to accommodate more than 500 culinary students – a figure we anticipate in coming years. We must do everything we can to maximize our rolls, and this new facility is a huge step in the right direction.”

Elevator Replacement in John L. Guidry Stadium

The stadium’s elevator and elevator shaft had not been replaced since the stadium’s construction in 1973. Recent safety inspections revealed that the concrete block comprising the outer skin had cracked and become unstable. A structural engineer also discovered corrosion in the shaft’s steel frame. In order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as safety requirements, the state’s Interim Emergency Board approved $1.3 million in 2011 to replace both the shaft and the elevator by the end of this year. Completion is expected in September.

Soccer Field Complex on Audubon Avenue

Title IX’s mandate for gender equality required a women’s soccer complex to be built. The Nicholls administration therefore secured $465,960 from plant fund accounts, self-assessed student fees, the Lorio Foundation, NSU Foundation, New Orleans Saints Camp funds and the annual Women’s Night Out fundraiser.

“The majority of these dollars came from non-operating budget sources,” Hulbert said. “Construction is now complete, and our student athletes are making full use of the facility.”

Replacement of Light Poles in Rienzi Circle

In 2008, the Board of Regents provided Nicholls with a $67,505 grant from the Louisiana Postsecondary Education Secure Campus Program. In 2010, Nicholls used the grant money to upgrade emergency sirens in Ayo Hall, Ellender Library, Ellender Residence Hall, Picciola Hall and Gouaux Hall – which cost $47,000.

“Since this project was under budget, we began exploring additional security projects to fund,” Hulbert said. “After an annual walk-through, we decided that the 1980s-era lighting in the front of campus was insufficient, so we purchased new, energy-efficient light poles, which should be installed by this fall. Campus safety is paramount, so I am pleased that this project will soon be finished.”

Hulbert reiterated that transparency and cooperation are essential as both the state and the university work to strengthen their finances.

“Ultimately, to save higher education in Louisiana, we will require not only a statewide understanding of the facts but also a true partnership with our leaders in Baton Rouge, which we currently do not have,” he said. “Until then we will continue to do everything we can to recruit and retain as many students as possible.”

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