News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This year is being called a "banner year" for donations for the soon-to-be-merged Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.
"It's a tough time. I think the entire country is going through this," said University President Dr. Ricardo Azziz at the monthly board of directors meeting. "I'm very hopeful that we will soon achieve a new normal."
He was speaking about the state slashing more than $48 million from the school budget in the last four years.
"That's significant," Azziz said.
The school is now boasting about what's being called a banner year for giving with more than $43 million in donations.
"There is a bright side," Azziz said. "It's a tough time, but people believe in us."
Outside of donations, the state is also pushing $23 million for a new Education Commons building, $45 million for a new Cancer Center with a crosswalk spanning 15th Street and millions in improvements on the ASU Walton Way campus. The Board of Regents is recommending a total $150 million in next year's budget for Augusta's "New U."
"Which is three times more than any other university or college in the system," said Regent Tommy Hopkins, who is visiting Augusta during the same week students staged a protested of the new name, Georgia Regents University.
"The governor has bought in. The Board of Regents has bought in, and I hope the community will continue to buy in because this is going to be a transformed institution. I promise you."
The merger is expected to take effect at the beginning of the year.