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Trustees approve UWA plans

Staff Report The Demopolis Times

John Patterson was serving as the youngest-ever governor of Alabama the last time the University of West Alabama’s Young Hall was renovated.

That was 1962, but Monday the university’s board of trustees approved a 2004-2005 budget that included $250,000 in improvements to the building that houses the campus cafeteria along with other campus improvements.

Also approved was a tuition hike for students. UWA undergraduate students will pay 15 percent more to attend classes this fall, while graduate student tuition increased 5 percent. Last fall tuition was increased by 5 percent for undergraduates and 15 percent for graduate students, meaning the school has increased tuition by 20 percent in the last two years.

That move didn’t come without some dissension, however.

The budget was brought to the board with a recommendation by the Finance Committee which is chaired by John Northcutt of Demopolis. Board member Doris Oliveira of Tuskegee cast the only dissenting vote on the budget. She later voiced her objection to the tuition increase.

“We are in the middle of the pack as tuition increases go,” commented Board Chairman Alex Saad. “The lack of state support has forced every institution to raise tuition. Some raised it at a higher percentage, and only a couple of schools raised tuition at lower percentages than we did.”

The board, however, was unified in its adoption of the Land Use and Facilities Committee’s recommendations.

The campus-wide Greenways Project is a system of walking paths, bike trails and landscaping planned to enhance the look and usability of the campus. It is funded in part through a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

On other recommendations from the Land Use and Facilities Committee, the Board approved $125,000 in renovations to the Rodeo Complex. Money for the project was already earmarked due to cancelled plans for similar renovations last year.

The Board also endorsed two fundraising/ building projects in the athletic department. The football department will seek to raise money to light Tiger Stadium for night names. The baseball department will seek to raise funds for an indoor hitting facility at Tartt Field.

The new budget also calls for a state-of-the-art, six-court tennis facility on campus to host at-home tennis events. The new facility will be located adjacent to the UWA Student Union Building. It will cost between $350,000 and $375,000.NCAA rules require all universities to have 10 intercollegiate sports programs by 2005, and the addition of the men’s and women’s tennis teams will bring UWA in align with that requirement. The “old tennis courts,” near the President’s Home, will be resurfaced for use as additional parking.

The budget included a 4 percent across the board pay raise for faculty and staff. On average, faculty and staff salaries in Alabama’s institutions of higher learning are far below the salaries of those in sister institutions throughout the southeast.

The state fights what has become known as a “brain drain,” losing faculty to higher paying institutions in neighboring states, said University spokesperson Shelly Stapp Findley.