Construction on the Universities at Shady Grove’s new biomedical sciences and engineering building is scheduled to begin this fall after local leaders persuaded Gov. Larry Hogan to reinstate funding for the project during this year’s General Assembly session.
It’s welcome news for the campus after doubts about the project arose earlier this year when Hogan proposed delaying funding for the building until 2020. Hogan, in his proposed fiscal 2017 budget, had delayed the project’s funding as a way to cut spending and help finance a new Baltimore City jail.
The governor’s decision was immediately met with backlash from Montgomery County’s General Assembly delegation as well as university and county leaders, who described the project as an integral part of the state’s future economy. The campus is a partnership between nine Maryland universities to offer 80 of the schools’ most popular degree programs in Montgomery County.
Dr. Stewart Edelstein, executive director of the Universities of Shady Grove (USG), said in a phone interview Wednesday the new building will help USG educate the region’s future workforce.
“We have every expectation that we’re going to be extremely important in the future development of this region by bringing this project online,” Edelstein said. “We are going to be able to give students locally the opportunity to come to our college and obtain degrees that are going to be tied to the industry needs in the region and the state.”
Edelstein said the building will educate students in fields such as cybersecurity, information technology, biomedical science and engineering—all of which are industries the county and state have focused on growing.
The estimated $162 million building will contain teaching laboratories, classrooms, clinical training facilities and academic offices. The Rockville campus will offer engineering, agriculture and a range of information technology courses in the building, which is now expected to open in spring 2019.
Edelstein said it took a unified effort from local leaders and the regional business community to convince Hogan to reinstate the funding to fiscal 2017, which the governor did in an amended budget proposed in March.
“Education has and always will be a top priority for our administration, and moving forward with these important projects at Maryland universities will benefit college students for decades,” Hogan said in a statement after submitting his altered budget proposal.
However, the effort wasn’t enough to get all the previously authorized funding back.
In fiscal 2017, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2017, the university will receive $36.7 million from the state to begin construction as well as a $10 million bridge loan from the University System of Maryland. The combined $46.7 million is about $25 million less than the $72 million the General Assembly previously authorized for the project in fiscal 2017, before Hogan proposed delaying the funding.
Edelstein said the funds will be enough to begin construction this fall and the General Assembly has pre-authorized the remaining funds to construct the rest of the building over the next three fiscal years.
He said the state is expected to budget $80 million toward the project in fiscal 2018, which will allow the university to complete construction and begin purchasing the scientific equipment that will be used in the classrooms. The remaining funding is expected to come in fiscal 2019, which ends June 30, 2019.
“We do not believe we’re going to start construction, then have to stop it,” Edelstein said. “We’re very fortunate we had this coalition of interests supporting the building.”