SPRINGFIELD, MO -- Missouri State University (MSU) broke ground on a $30 million student recreation center on Friday, despite criticism from students that the project is not fiscally responsible during tough economic times.

In October 2006, MSU students voted to support fees for the construction of a new rec center, the cost of which was estimated at $23 million at that time. The student fees started at $30 per semester, but now have increased to $50 per semester for full-time students. Once the center opens, the fee is expected to rise to $80.

“Economic circumstances have changed drastically since this project was originally conceived in 2006,” Zach Becker, an MSU graduate told the MSU Board of Governors on April 9. “Spending $30 million on a recreation center and paying to staff and maintain it is an extravagance the university cannot afford right now.”

Becker started a Facebook page to voice opposition to the 100,000-square-foot rec center project that garnered 229 members. However, an MSU student group in support of the project started a Facebook page that gained 264 members.

Despite student concerns, the school decided to forge ahead with rec center plans. At the groundbreaking ceremony last Friday, Phyllis Washington, a member of the MSU Board of Governors encouraged the crowd to look to the future.

“We have to look at the bigger picture, not just today,” Washington told a crowd of about 200 people, according to local media. “We want nothing but the best for our university students.”

Universities around the country are having similar difficulties passing plans to build new rec centers.

A referendum for a new rec center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was voted down last week by students, after the school launched a $31,000 campaign to lobby in favor of the project.

The Associated Students of Madison said nearly 14,000 students tuned out to vote on the proposal to raise student fees by $54 per semester for the next 30 years. The proposed $60 million renovation project would have doubled the size of “The Nat,” one of the university’s existing gyms.

Students at the University of California-Riverside are voting on a rec center expansion project this week. Opponents of that plan say the proposed $149-per-quarter student fee increase is too high considering the rising costs associated with attending California universities. Hundreds of students protested at UC schools late last year after the California Board of Regents instituted a 32 percent undergraduate tuition increase.