UF officials approved a plan to construct a 1,950-space parking garage, and construction could start as early as next December.

The lot, for graduate-student parking, will add about 900 spaces and is expected to be completed by January 2020.

The UF Board of Trustees approved the construction of the parking garage during a board meeting held at Emerson Alumni Hall on Friday. Pending on the Board of Governors approval, the garage will be built on the existing parking lot located on Gale Lemerand Drive and could cost a maximum $34.2 million to build, UF spokesperson Janine Sikes wrote in an email.

The garage will expand the lot from 1,064 spaces to 1,950 spaces, Sikes said. Only graduate students, faculty and staff will be able to access it.

The board decided on the expansion to make room for 500 new employees, Sikes said.

“It is imperative we augment campus parking, which will be needed to address existing (demand) and increased demand,” Sikes said.

Additionally, the board approved a raise for graduate assistant employees, as part of a three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement between the UF Board of Trustees and Graduate Assistants United.

The agreement includes a $1,000 stipend increase and wage raises for graduate assistants, starting January. The cost of Gator Grad Care, a health insurance plan, will also reflect similar employee compensations.

The board also approved a new Doctor of Musical Arts degree to be offered by the UF School of Music as part of an effort to create an innovative, close-knit community of about 15 students by the program’s fifth year.

The degree will offer a unique twist on a traditional music education, through a required concentration of study outside students’ chosen musical specialty, such as business, digital arts, medicine or engineering, said Kevin Orr, director of the School of Music.

“There’s evidence of market need and strong salary potential,” Orr said. “We believe our graduates will be very competitively positioned for well-paying jobs in growing markets.”

The program won’t add any additional costs to the School of Music due to the redistribution of graduate funds, Orr said.

Wade Fitzgerald, a UF music junior, said the degree is a practical idea.

“Musicians tend be really creative thinkers,” the 20-year-old said. “If they can apply that creativity to other fields, that’s also really good.”

Contact Elliott at enasby@alligator.org. Follow Elliott at @_ElohEl.