Well done, Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission. UGA President Jere Morehead welcomed and applauded the moratorium on new bars and apartments enacted by the local government earlier this month while Rosser International, an Atlanta firm, studies health and safety in the downtown area (at a cost of $90,000 to taxpayers).
“I personally think the city would be well served to have a downtown that reflects the broader community,” with more retail, restaurants and art galleries, Morehead said. He believes downtown Athens would also benefit from the addition of a grocery store, something he has said before, because it would help attract retirees to the area.
When told that the Daily Groceries Co-op plans to move into a larger store in the complex slated for the former St. Joseph Catholic Church property at 100 Prince Ave., Morehead said he had been hearing about the development and “when it happens, I think it’ll be good.”
The president’s comments came at the end of a cabinet meeting on Feb. 15, during which he discussed an initiative to create scholarships for needy students; the statewide economic impact of the university; and an effort, Road Dawgs, to attract more minority students through student recruiters.
Before the 2008 recession, the percentage of UGA students receiving Pell Grants—federal grants given to low-income students—was 5 or 6 percent, officials said. In 2008, that figure soared to 25 percent, where it has since remained.
Morehead wants the university to give financial aid to these students and others who can’t pay the $26,208 required for a year at the university, including tuition, room and board, books and living expenses. There are families whose children are admitted to UGA but who can’t afford to send them, and Morehead wants to reassure them that help will be available. The money will recruit as well as retain students, he said.
The goal is, by 2020, to create 400–600 needs-based scholarships, which will be the centerpiece of the university’s current $1.2 billion fundraising campaign. The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has given UGA $30 million to support needs-based financial aid, the largest donation the university has ever received.
The needs-based awards will be $3,000–$7,000. In the past two weeks, 30 scholarships have been created, the president said, and some money will be awarded to incoming students this fall. The money will help retain as well as recruit students, he says.
Vetoed in 2016 by Gov. Nathan Deal, the campus carry bill allowing for firearms on the campuses of public colleges has returned to the Georgia Capitol. The president said his stand on campus carry remains the same as last year and is line with the position of the Board of Regents, which strongly opposed allowing students to bring firearms on campuses.
Morehead also said Wednesday that “without the University of Georgia, the state of Georgia would look very different.” The university isn’t just in Athens; it’s on campuses in Griffin and Tifton, in Cooperative Extension offices around the state, on experimental farms and research facilities and on the Georgia coast on Skidaway and Sapelo Island. With such a huge reach, it has an economic impact of $5.25 billion annually, Morehead said.
Speaking of money, the president said a 2 percent faculty raise isn’t sufficient. “We’ve still got a gap to close in faculty and staff salaries,” he said. “We want to push the increase as high as we can make it.”