Chairman Adams, members of the Finance Committee, good morning, and thank you for this opportunity to talk with you about our Laredo University. Texas A&M International University, like most of higher education, came through the legislative process less harmed than originally imagined, and we begin Fiscal Year 2004 strong and able to continue the growth that has characterized university life in Laredo. We plan to offer, beginning October 1st, merit raises for faculty and staff from a pool of 2.5%, across-the-board raises of $70/month for all employees earning less than $30,000, and an increase of 2% in the classified staff pay scale.
Preliminary figures for fall enrollment suggest a healthy and continuous increase in both headcount and in Semester Credit Hours. The precipitous decrease in Texas Grant available for new students does, however, substantially reduce our ability to offer scholarships for freshmen. And in Laredo, enrollment ceases to grow only when scholarship monies are exhausted. We believe that the fall numbers will show an increase of between 8 and 10%, bringing our enrollment to slightly more than 4,000 students. Based upon our experience of the last three years, we project growth to continue at approximately 10% per semester.
The continuous build-out of our beautiful campus continues to be the most visible activity. On August 21st (and you have, I hope, received your invitations) we celebrate with a formal ceremony the opening of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. You will remember that the theater in that complex remains only shelled out, awaiting funds to complete the interior. We are very optimistic that those funds will be available from private philanthropy in the not-too-distant-future. The music recital hall is complete, and we are negotiating now to purchase a fine pipe organ for that facility, a gift from a Laredo family.
This month, American Campus Communities begins the second phase of campus housing, a 400-bed facility configured in the traditional first-time-freshman fashion, with resident advisors living on the dormitory corridors, a large community center with meeting rooms, computer center, exercise room, and kitchen, as well as a large swimming pool and outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. This complex will be located on the east side of campus.
Directly across the road from the housing construction, the science building is well under way. Slated for completion in 20 months, we hope to move into that facility in the summer of 2005. Because of a favorable bidding climate and generous funding, we were able to secure in the construction all additional features originally conceived for the building, including a crystal, pyramid-shaped planetarium.
Laredo was especially fortunate during the last session to receive $12,500,000 in tuition revenue bonds to finish Phase V of the campus. Remaining to be built are our kinesiology facilities-fields and courts-to support fitness-and-wellness programs training teachers in the College of Education, as well as spaces for intramural and intercollegiate competition. We plan to begin putting together the Program of Requirements for Phase V in September. Of special note, you will remember, is the public-private collaboration, the city of Laredo, private philanthropy, and the University who together will build on the eastern part of our campus a comprehensive baseball park with eight fields, including a special field for physically challenged young people. The City will operate this facility under a long-term lease from the A&M System, and the University will enjoy access to these fields, allowing us to redirect to other projects monies in Phase V originally conceived for baseball. We hope a final agreement beneficial to all sides can be finalized soon.
Among our academic programs, the most notable event of FY 2004 will be the beginning of our Ph.D. in International Business. The proposal is now pending approval at the Coordinating Board, and we hope to admit the first cohort of students in the fall of 2004. In anticipation of beginning this doctoral program, we have substantially enhanced resources and personnel for the Office of International Programs. Special Funding provides the resources to support this doctoral program, as well as accreditation for the College of Business Administration. While that funding was reduced 12.5%, the remaining appropriation will allow us to proceed with plans to implement the program. In addition, this year we should begin the collaborative Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies, involving the Laredo, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, and College Station faculties.
The administrative team at A&M International is soon to include a number of new faces. This summer, the Dean of the College of Business returned to full-time teaching and the Dean of Education retired. Both searches are underway, and the pool of candidates for each position is strong. We should have both new deans in place by January, 2004. In addition, this year we implement the reorganization you approved at the January meeting, combining in the new College of Arts and Sciences our earlier configuration of Arts and Humanities and Science and Technology.
The fast pace of new academic programs has slowed a bit. The next significant move will be toward beginning a program in engineering, which I hope will be in place within the next five years. Review of programs has led us to look closely at all existing academic offerings. Most of our offerings are of quite recent origin, and over the next biennium we should be able to identify those programs whose performance has not matched expectations. At present, our social work program is under especially close scrutiny. While enrollment and hours of coursework last year seemed to decline, strong interest remains in the program, and we hope to continue to offer the study of social work at TAMIU.
Most important, I want you to know on behalf of the students, faculty, and staff that all of us in Laredo know how fortunate we are and what phenomenal support we have enjoyed. And all of us, together, are determined to continue to make you proud.