Student Academic Support Center: The Most Important Building You’ve Never Heard About

Rendering of the Student Academic Support Center by architectural firm Gould Evans. SASC will house the honors college, the University graduate school offices, enrollment services, student financials and a the University’s largest auditorium classroom, with 750 seats.

Photo courtesy of John Cal.

By Bryan Palacio/ Staff Writer

Dealing with unforeseen complications is important in any business matter, especially when there’s $30 million on the line.

That’s the situation the University faced when they started their plans to bring an all-inclusive Student Welcome Center to the Modesto Maidique Campus.

The Student Academic Support Center  is a 74,000 square foot building labeled as one of the most important projects to get underway at FIU by Academic Affairs, even if you have no idea what it is.

“The goal is to try and have one place where students can go where the majority of their questions can be answered,” said Jeffery Gonzalez, vice provost for Planning & Institutional Research.

Soon, students and visitors will no longer need to trek across school grounds from one department to another to resolve all their academic and financial matters.

The SASC building will house all the main departments, so students can conduct all University business from recruitment to graduation in a single location. One-Stop enrollment services help bring units together for easier access as well as promote collaboration.

The SASC will include the front office of all Enrollment Services including Registrar, Financial Aid, Bursar’s Office, Student Financials and Advisement. Some of the other additions to the building are the Honors Program, Graduate School, Career Services, International Student and Scholar Services and the Study Abroad program.

It is also scheduled to have classrooms and become the main location for things such as orientation and academic seminars, as well as boasting the University’s largest auditorium.

“The integration of having career services and study abroad next to registration and advising, we want students to take time to think about their opportunities; the kind of internships or jobs that are available to them,” said Elizabeth Bejar, vice president of Academic Affairs. “We are trying to create synergy.”

The University originally received funding back in May 2010, when it was granted $21 million from the Florida Legislature with the remainder of the funding to be provided in the following academic session.

But three years later, even with the projected deadline for the building having come and gone, FIU was still searching for the answer to their budget woes because of cuts to Public Education Capital Outlay funding. PECO funds are generated through taxes on utilities and are used to accomplish fixed capital outlay projects of educational institutions.

“This project was envisioned to be a $30 million dollar building and we only received $21 million,” said John Cal, vice president of Facilities Management. “When it was clear we weren’t going to get any more money from the state, we tried to rework the building and scale it down somewhat and figure out how we could build it for less money.”

Foreseeing impending cuts, the University was able to reevaluate its plans and reduce the project’s total cost to about $28 million, requiring only $7 million to complete funding, according to Cal.

Part of this reevaluation included relocating the SASC from its original spot at the FIU Stadium, as part of FIU Stadium’s Phase III construction plan, to its new location just southeast of GC near lot 3.

FIU was finally able to receive the balance of $7 million from this year’s legislative session, allowing them to move forward with plans they began several years ago. The hope is to break ground soon with hopes of having it up and running by late Fall 2015.

And, by then, most students will have heard of it.

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