Obama stimulus package could mean millions for USM

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - "So this is looking at the build out of the 200 acres and the surrounding area," explained Dr. Pat Joachim as she pointed to a picture.

It was the latest layout that is being proposed for the new USM campus at Cross Creek in Harrison County. Joachim says a special committee should be ready to deliver the master plan to the university president in April. However, money is still the biggest obstacle.

"We don't have any funding to build this campus when you look at the state of the economy and all of the cuts that we have had to make to all of education," said Joachim.

That's why Southern Miss is turning to President Obama's stimulus plan for help. Part of the package is aimed at helping educational programs that generate economic development.

"It's also to provide easier access for people who need higher education. It's going to create jobs," said Joachim.

USM is hoping to get between $96 to $100 million to fund the first phase of the new campus. About $12 million would go toward infrastructure. The rest would pay for five academic and office buildings, along with a support building to house heating and cooling equipment.

"So when the money's awarded, we could look at having our buildings actually maybe in two to three years," said Joachim.

USM wants to move most of its undergraduate programs from the Long Beach campus to Cross Creek. However, specialty programs like the Entertainment Industry, graduate programs and Executive Format courses will stay at Gulf Park.

But before these changes can take place, Congress must first approve the stimulus package and USM must still be selected to receive the funding.

"I am praying and hoping that we are going to get it," said Joachim. "I'm sending out every positive vibe that I can. I believe that we are in a very good position to get that."

Just so you know, the first phase of the Cross Creek campus can hold up to 5,000 students. Once completed, the entire project can hold as many as 14,000 students.