Gov. Bill Haslam visited the Northeast State campus Feb. 1, praising the College’s proposed Emerging Technologies Complex as “one of the most significant investments in capital we will make this year.”
Gov. Haslam noted the complex in his recent State-of-the-State address that envisioned substantial emphasis and progress in K-12 and postsecondary education.
Gov. Haslam touched on his “Drive to 55” initiative, a campaign to raise the number of Tennesseans who hold two- and four-year degrees to 55 percent by 2025. Currently, only 32 percent of residents have earned a college degree. He noted that projections show 55 percent of all new jobs will require a degree.
“The focus on emerging technologies is where we have to be going as a state,” Gov. Haslam said. “We’re not just here because it was Northeast State’s turn to be funded or that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey lives down the road. We’re here because this project fits with what we’re trying to do.”
Northeast State Community College envisions the complex will house the Business and Advanced Technologies Divisions. The building is part of the College’s 2013 Master plan, which addresses critical workforce development needs of business and industry.
“This is an historic day for Northeast State. The building has been on the capital outlay list for more than 15 years, so it’s been a long time in coming,” said Dr. Janice Gilliam, Northeast State president. “It’s a very competitive process and we feel very fortunate that it’s moved up the list and received approval. The two buildings that house advanced technologies instruction have simply run out of space, making it difficult to expand enrollment and offer new programs.”
Approximately $35 million has been allocated for the new complex by the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The facility will accommodate Business and Advanced Technologies programs such as computer science, business management, office administration, automotive service, motorsports, electrical, HVAC, electromechanical, manufacturing engineering, machining, engineering design, and welding and metal fabrication.
Planning for new programs includes culinary arts, entertainment technology, complex construction, energy specialist, health informatics (as part of Office Administration Technology), and horticulture/agriculture. All new programs would have to be developed, and approved by TBR.
Northeast State’s main campus has a significant need for more space, as indicated by the master planning process. By fall 2016, it is projected the College will need more than twice the amount of space than currently available on the Blountville campus. Lab space needs are also projected to grow at a faster rate than classroom space needs, likely due to increasing needs for technology in the classroom and the projected increase in enrollment in technical education courses.
The complex is estimated to have nearly 130,000 of net square footage and will replace the oldest buildings on campus, which were built in the 1960s and early 1970s. The current inadequate and outdated facilities are beyond restoration and will be demolished.
Under TBR and THEC guidelines, community colleges must provide a 10 percent local match for capital outlay projects, with Tennessee Technologies Centers and universities providing a 5 percent and 25 percent match, respectively.
“Efforts will focus on state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, technology, and equipment to stay on the forefront of educational instruction,” Dr. Gilliam said. “The College is planning for additional facilities that will enhance student learning and engagement to support retention and student success. These initiatives will promote the basic pillars of our mission and the Complete College TN Act, ACCESS, COMPLETION, and COMMUNITY.”
As part of the Drive-to-55 campaign, Gov. Haslam said the state is partnering with Western Governors University to create “WGU Tennessee,” an online, competency-based university geared to 800,000 Tennesseans who have some college credit, but no degree. The program emphasizes a unique curriculum and mentors who guide students through the academic process. Chancellor of WGU Texas, Dr. Mark Milliron, will visit Northeast State’s Blountville campus Feb. 7, speaking on the topic of “Catalyzing Positive Change in Education.”
In addition, Gov. Haslam is proposing an endowment of $35 million using operation reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. The endowment is designed to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” program such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the costs of books, supplies, and room and board.