CASS slated to open in December

The CASS building is expected to open in December. Photo by Rachel Daniels

The Center for Advancement and Student Success’ initial opening date was going to be in August.

After delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, that date was pushed back to Oct. 31. Now, the CASS center is in its final months, projected to be fully completed in December.

In 2017, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University broke ground marking the beginning of the CASS center. The CASS center, funded by the Legislature, cost approximately $40 million. FAMU was provided $16 million from the Legislature in 2017, but did not receive additional funding the following year, which caused the initial opening date to  be pushed back.

With FAMU’s perseverance, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Legislature approved the remaining $25 million to complete the CASS center in 2019.

The CASS center is located north of Gaither Gym, where it is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for students to receive all they need, including health services, financial assistance, counseling and tutoring.

FAMU President Larry Robinson believes the CASS center is essential to students.

“For us, this building is far more than a building. It is crucial to something we have been speaking about at Florida A&M University all the time: Student success. FAMU is on the rise, and the statistics tell the story, but the resources we offer to the students are the most vital piece,” Robinson said after providing Gov. Ron DeSantis with a tour of the facility in August.

More than 300 staff members will be relocated to the CASS center from eight units on campus to serve students. The center will house undergraduate admissions, cashiers office, Student Financial Services, Financial Aid, New Student Orientation and enrollment.

FAMU is the highest-ranked public historically Black college and university by U.S. News & World Report and has a retention rate above the national average.

Vice President for Student Affairs William Hudson believes the CASS center has the potential to be a game-changer for the university.

“The goal is to provide a one-stop-shop for student services and to increase student recruitment, retention, persistence and graduation rates,” Hudson said. “Typically, a project this size can take years due to funding, and the COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant impact on obtaining the supplies needed to complete the project. The original date for CASS to be open was October 31, but COVID-19 created several delays. The students can expect the completion of the CASS building by December.”

The CASS center will also house freshman advisers to assist freshmen successfully transition from high school to college. It will have 55 advisers and academic coaches.

The center is located in the heart of everything: the café, the Lawson Center, Bragg Stadium, residence halls, Gaither gym, Army ROTC building and the Robert “Pete” Griffin track complex.

FAMU senior Adahlia Thomas is eager to see the CASS center up and running.

“I’m so excited about the new CASS building to be finished. I remember when they first started over there; it interrupted my path to class sometimes, but I made my way around it. I am glad that it will have financial aid and other departments, so we will not have to walk to Foote Hilyer to wait in line for two hours. This building is long overdue,”  Thomas said.