Trustees Fund Higgins Project, Set 1998-99 Budget

(2-10-98) -- By unanimous vote, the Board of Trustees Friday gave administrators the go-ahead to begin a significant renovation and addition project on Higgins Hall this spring.

Board members, who have discussed the proposed Higgins renovation for the past several years, authorized funding for the project that will add approximately 110,000 square feet to the front of the existing structure and substantially renovate the facility's interior. When completed, Higgins will provide students and faculty in Biology and Physics with new and upgraded laboratories, classrooms, animal care facilities, offices and support space.

Last fall, the Newton Board of Aldermen granted the University a special permit for the renovation and expansion of Higgins. University administrators are hoping for construction to begin in May, with a completion date of November 2001 expected.

Trustees also voted to approve a University operating budget of $397.3 million for fiscal year 1999. The budget is balanced for the 27th consecutive year.

Highlights of the 1998-1999 budget include:

--Tuition, room and board charges will increase by 4.5 percent to $29,839;

--Student financial aid will increase by $5.6 million, or 9.3 percent, to $65.5 million;

--$3.4 million will fund new faculty positions outlined in the University Academic Planning Council report;

--Savings in administrative productivity improvements have been budgeted at $2.3 million as part of Project Delta.

Commenting on the approved budget, Trustee Finance and Audit Committee Chairman R. Michael Murray said, "This reflects what we are trying to do through the UAPC, with special emphases on two or three areas, including financial aid, faculty hiring" and program enhancements for undergraduate and graduate students.

In other action, trustees voted to authorize funding for several capital projects, including:

--The construction in the south end zone area of Alumni Stadium of approximately 30 offices for general University use;

--Phase II of the upgrading and renewal of Upper Campus and Newton Campus residence halls that was begun a year ago;

--The replacement of the artificial playing surface in Alumni Stadium, construction of an air supported structure over the playing surface in Alumni Stadium to allow year-round use of the field, and upgrades to the lighting and fencing for the playing areas on Shea Field.

According to administrators, the air-supported bubble over the playing surface in Alumni Stadium will be erected on a seasonal basis, allowing activity on the field from December through March, as well as the rest of the year, when the structure will be removed. It will not cover the entire seating area in the stadium, and at approximately 70 feet high will not be fully visible from Beacon Street.

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