Delaware State seeks millions for optics building

DOVER — Delaware State University is requesting $38.3 million in capital funding, an increase of more than 600 percent over the current fiscal year.

In the university’s annual budget hearing Monday, DSU officials formally asked for a $40.9 million operating budget and a $38.3 million capital budget.

The university is receiving $34.6 million for operating costs and $6 million for construction this year.

The majority of the capital request would go to phase three of the Optical Science Center for Applied Research, or OSCAR, program. Phase two ended when the OSCAR building officially opened in September. The university recently received a grant from NASA, as much of the optics program focuses on Mars research.

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Harry Williams

The new building, 28,000 square feet and covered in a shining, reflective-surface, is the jewel of the campus. DSU is hoping to expand its optics program through the construction of a new and larger building, complete with classrooms and research labs.

The goal is to have the new facility open by December 2017, but that is contingent on receiving state funding.

“It fits into our plan for growth,” President Harry Williams said of the target date.

DSU is seeking $28.9 million for phase three of the OSCAR facility, as well as $8.8 million in campus improvement and $740,000 to upgrade 20 classrooms and equip them with more technology for professors to use in their lessons.

With the state facing a budget crunch, DSU’s request will face difficulties when the Legislature begins crafting the budget next year, and Dr. Williams noted he could not estimate the likelihood funding will be available. Without the aid, DSU would have to delay its construction of the new lab.

Delaware State also is seeking a $6.3 million increase in its operating budget, with a large portion going to proposed salary increases. Totaling $2.3 million, the raises would help the university be competitive with other institutions, supporters say.

As per collective bargaining agreements, Delaware State is required to request annual salary boosts, although recent recommendations have been unsuccessful.

The college also is seeking $679,000 for the engineering technology degree, a joint venture with Delaware Technical Community College. The program would allow students to attend DelTech’s Georgetown campus for two years while they seek an engineering technology degree. After that time, the students would matriculate to DSU.

The degree plan and the optics program are enabling Delaware State to stand out in the higher education field, Dr. Williams said.

“We feel very good about the quality of the programs that we have, and we have good data to support students who do persist and move forward in our (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas and we have done a really good job — the faculty in particular of just preparing students — not only to go into the workplace but to go to graduate school to pursue that additional degree,” he said.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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