Sun, May 19, 2024

Multi-million dollar hiring plan

One of the Augusta area’s largest employers is hanging out the “Help Wanted” sign. Augusta University’s targeted student enrollment growth means the university itself needs to grow.

Just over $6 million will be allocated for the immediate addition of 43 new faculty, 24 new full-time staff, two temporary positions, and 42 new student-worker positions. A portion will be used to add infrastructure supporting the new hires.

The university needs additional faculty and staff after notching a student enrollment of 10,546 for fall 2023. That is a 7.5% increase over fall 2022.

Dr. Simon Medcalfe, Professor at the Hull College of Business and contributor to ABD, said the larger impact will be the 16 by 30, the target of 16,000 students by 2030 set by University President, Dr. Brooks Keel.

Dr. Simon Medcalfe

“Not only increased employment of faculty and staff to support those students, but the students themselves as we attract more and more students from out of the area,” he said. “I think if you look at five or six years down the line, I think that would be a substantial impact on the local area.”

“As Georgia’s flagship health sciences and medical research university, home of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, and a national leader in student success, we strive every day to provide our students with an innovative and personalized learning and discovery environment that helps prepare them for the workforce, and our continued enrollment growth reflects that commitment,” said University President, Dr. Brooks Keel in a news release announcing the plan.

While the impact on AU is obvious, Cal Wray, President of the Augusta Economic Development Authority (AEDA), told ABD spending by the new employees will be felt in the regional economy.

Cal Wray

“As those employees spend money, you have those supplier businesses that are servicing the university or Fort Eisenhower,” he said. “And then, you have that growth that money put in the economy. So, there’s definitely a multiplier that ripples out all the way down into your hotels, to your food and beverage industry.”

Wray said one of the biggest challenges facing the seven counties that make up the local region (Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie in Georgia, along with Aiken and Edgefield in South Carolina) is providing sufficient, affordable housing.

“How do we get prices back under control? Obviously, some housing cost growth is good, but how do you have people that can take a job and have affordable housing? That’s a big conversation in our offices,” he said. “How do we encourage those to put up affordable housing, workforce housing, whatever the buzz term is of the day? How do we put up housing that people with their salaries can pay for and afford and have for their families?”

Medcalfe said the $6 million investment indicates the overall health of the university is positive.

“This is a commitment from our leadership, investing in the economy to invest in the workforce development, particularly healthcare area, cybersecurity, the computer science area,” he said. “If you look at the jobs of the future, we’re well positioned to provide workforce people for the next generation. We’ve got to look to the future and see what the jobs for the future are going to be and I think particularly AU is well positioned for that in terms of academic programs we offer.”

Wray said it is important local developers and governments commit to encouraging residential growth.

“Some of our counties have kind of put, not a freeze on it, but they’ve definitely put a cooling on it. I think welcome residents, welcome your industries, your job creators. Do it properly, do it right, put some thought into it. But don’t stand in the way of residential growth and don’t stand in the way of job creators or industrial growth.”

The study done by AU also looked at the next anticipated enrollment. According to their news release, “Early projections, including the number of applications for fall 2024 and improved retention rates for current students, point to sustained growth in the years to come.”

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