SLCC system chief says $16 million project on wish list
LAFAYETTE — In response to demand for trained health care workers in Acadiana, a new $16 million, 60,000-square-foot health and sciences building for South Louisiana Community College is on a list of more than $245 million in community and technical college projects proposed for legislative approval in the upcoming session.
“Hopefully, it will reduce the waiting lists for programs and solve some of the needs in this area,” Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said.
He made the comment during a visit to the SLCC campus Tuesday for meetings with staff and faculty to explain the system’s goals for the upcoming session. Visits to other campuses within the system are planned prior to the legislative session.
The Lafayette project is one of 24 planned at 14 campuses across the state to increase space for in-demand workforce training programs and to improve student accessibility to campus services with the construction of “one-stop centers” on some campuses, May said. Construction would be phased starting in 2015 through 2017.
The cost of the proposed construction package is $245.5 million with campuses required to find private donors to fund at least $18.5 million toward the projects. In Lafayette, SLCC must secure a $1 million private match before construction could begin in 2016.
“If there really is a demand and need, then we need to engage private employers to help with that,” May said.
Other recent system construction projects in Lake Charles, Houma and New Orleans have received private contributions, he added.
The SLCC campus’ programs in licensed practical nursing and surgical care technology have waiting lists, and the college also offers health programs in clinical lab assistant, nurse assistant, pharmacy tech and soon, it may add a registered nursing program.
In July, technically focused campuses that were formerly part of the Acadiana Technical College in Lafayette, Opelousas, Ville Platte, Crowley, St. Martinville, New Iberia and Abbeville merged with SLCC. The merger expanded general education course options in the outlying areas, and the college has proposed about six new training programs specific to regional workforce needs, said Natalie Harder, SLCC chancellor.
Currently, 742 students are enrolled in health programs at SLCC, while more than 4,820 jobs in the health-care field are vacant in the Lafayette and south Louisiana region, according to figures provided by the system.
The new building will enable the college to double its enrollment in popular programs such as licensed practical nursing and patient care technician training, Harder said.
She added hospitals have also expressed interest in the college offering radiation therapy and occupational therapy technician programs.
The new building would free space in its Ardoin building, which houses its technical programs in Lafayette, to expand other in-demand programs in welding, industrial technology and drafting, Harder said. Classroom space dedicated to the Early College Academy in the college’s Devalcourt building would be moved to a separate wing in the new building that will offer more course openings for college students. The ECA program is in partnership with the Lafayette Parish School System and enables high schoolers to earn a high school diploma in tandem with an associate’s degree in four years.
The system’s request comes as the system wraps up a nearly $174 million bond package approved by the Legislature in 2007 for 23 construction projects on 14 campuses. Two Acadiana campuses were on the list. The Gulf Area campus in Abbeville received more than $5 million in major renovations, and work on construction of a new $9.2 million, 32,000-square-foot campus in St. Martinville will begin this summer.
The 2007 request included direly needed projects to replace and repair major structural issues on campuses, May said.
The new proposal creates needed space to grow the system’s enrollment from 73,000 students to 220,000 students to meet workforce demands throughout the state, May said.
“It’s really a race for the jobs and the economy,” he told SLCC faculty members.