Penn State’s proposed state appropriations for the 2019-2020 school year are level since last year, but the university is set to move forward with several big-budget capital projects.
On Thursday, the Penn State Board of Trustees’ finance, business and capital planning committee approved four large projects that could affect current and prospective students and staff.
For $60.8 million, the East Halls renovations will continue with a second phase — the renovations of both Sproul and Geary halls. The two buildings will have 573 beds in mostly double rooms. Construction of the entire East Halls complex is slated to finish in 2022, with those two buildings set for completion in 2020.
Pending approval from the full board, Penn State’s College of Engineering is getting two new research and teaching facilities, which are tentatively planned to be designed by the Boston architectural firm Payette. The two buildings are the first stage in the 20-year West Campus College of Engineering Master Plan, which was created to keep up with rising engineering enrollments and advances in technology. The master plan includes the construction of a parking lot on West Campus.
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A final plan for a new, $65.2 million wastewater treatment plant to serve Penn State will also move forward. The new plant would be able to process 3 million gallons of wastewater a day and would reduce ground water withdrawals by an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 gallons daily, according to Bill Sitzabee, associate vice president for facilities management and planning at Penn State. The current wastewater treatment plant, located in State College Borough, was built in 1913 and last updated more than 60 years ago.
Penn State will also relocate the Applied Research Laboratory Steam Plant, located in Patton Township, to the ARL Energy Science and Power Systems Test Facility in Benner Township. Sitzabee said the relocation is due, in part, to the fact that there is a housing development encroaching on the current research facility location. The relocation project will cost $14.5 million and will support three new ARL research programs worth a combined $620 million.
Though Penn State’s funding level from the state remains the same, Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a $36.8 million increase for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which provides financial aid for Pennsylvania higher education students. Wolf’s press secretary J.J. Abbott said the governor is proposing, in total, a $50 million general fund increase to support financial assistance for higher education students.
“We must also budget within the realities of what’s likely to be approved by the legislature,” he wrote in an email Thursday.
Zack Moore, Penn State vice president for government and community relations, said the university would continue to lobby the state legislature and Wolf for more appropriations. Penn State President Eric Barron is speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and March 20 is Advocate Penn State Capital Day, Moore said.