General Assembly gives $2 million for Health Sciences

Joshua Farmer

The Appalachian State University College of Health Sciences is now looking into the possibility of constructing a new building after receiving $2 million from the North Carolina 2013-14 state budget.

This has been a goal for the university for many years, but has not had the funding needed, said Susan McCracken, vice chancellor of External Affairs and Community Relations.

In 2008, the General Assembly allocated between $4-5 million for a health sciences building, but because of state budget issues, Appalachian lost that funding, McCracken said.

The new health sciences building will cost approximately $82 million. While $2 million will allow planning to begin, the university will need 10 percent, or $8.2 million, to complete the planning phase.

McCracken said the university is incredibly thankful for the allocation.

“It is a huge step in the right direction,” McCracken said. “It’s a huge endorsement from our legislators who take the funds that they have – and we know how difficult the budget has been – and set aside money for this project. We’re incredibly thankful for that.”

If Appalachian receives the remaining $6.2 million before December 2014, the College of Health Sciences could receive 9 to 10 acres of land for free, McCracken said.

“The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System foundation made a pledge two years ago that if we had sufficient funding for planning and construction prior to Dec. 31, 2014, they would gift approximately 9 to 10 acres of land that’s across from the hospital for the purpose to provide a home for the college,” McCracken said.

The land is valued at more than $10 million, according to
The university is currently looking into various ways to help fund the remaining cost of the building, McCracken said. Appalachian has hired a consulting group to see if ideas, such as a public-private partnership are viable.

A public-private partnership involves both public money and private money being used to pay for the construction of a building. Once the building is completed, it is used for both private and public uses for a set amount of time. There are not very many examples of a public-private partnership, so the university’s consulting group is still working to see if it would be a sustainable long-term option, McCracken said.

Even though it started accepting students in 2010, the College of Health Sciences now has 11 majors and is the second largest college on campus, said Fred Whitt, founding dean of the college.

But classes are still spread out among eight different buildings, so a single building is needed, Whitt said.

“We’re doing everything we can to try and make this happen,” Whitt said. “It’s a high priority for the chancellor, the whole College of Health Sciences – it’s certainly a high-need area. We have the resources, the students, the faculty – we just need the space.”

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter