A future Forsyth County college campus received a boost Wednesday as the Georgia Senate approved its version of the state budget for 2012.
Included in the nearly $18.3 billion plan was $3 million for the future Cumming site of North Georgia College & State University, which was approved by the Georgia Board of Regents in February.
The move doesn't necessarily mean the funding will be included in the House version or the final state budget, which the General Assembly must pass at the session's end. It must also be approved by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Still, college and city leaders were pleased with the Senate's approval.
The city of Cumming donated the land for the new 30,0000-square-foot campus, which will be off Pilgrim Mill Road, and could open as early as January 2012.
Cumming leaders plan to lease the site to the university for 10 years and then transfer it to the college foundation.
The 70-acre complex will also include classes from Gainesville State College, and will offer both two- and four-year undergraduate and graduate programs.
Kate Maine, director of university relations at NGCSU, said college leaders requested the $3 million as a "one-time allocation" to "furnish, equip and provide start-up program support for the new campus."
"We are appreciative that our legislators recognize the importance of this new instructional site in meeting the higher education needs of the region," she said.
Gerald Blackburn, Cumming city administrator, called the measure "a step in the right direction."
"We knew North Georgia had been working on that [funding] with the Board of Regents for a while and we're excited about it," he said. "Hopefully, that will bring everything about at a faster pace. That's the goal.
"Hopefully, this means the House will approve that funding too. Getting it through the Senate is a good omen for it."
District 27 Sen. Jack Murphy and District 51 Sen. Steve Gooch, whose districts include parts of Forsyth County, were pleased their colleagues approved the measure.
Murphy, a Republican from Cumming, praised the Senate vote in a statement.
"Beyond the economic growth potential that will naturally come from having a university in our area, I am just so happy that our young people in Forsyth County will have an opportunity for a great education right here at home," he said.
Added Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega: "North Georgia College & State University has proven itself to be a superior school for so many Georgians. Having a branch of this campus right here in Forsyth County is truly exciting to me."