Details of proposed Livingston Parish community college discussed Tuesday

Officials are moving forward with plans to build a community college in Livingston Parish, a state community and technical college system administrator said Tuesday.

Officials plan to build a new community college and workforce training center that would offer a wide range of programs, including general education, allied health, welding and technology, said Neil Matkin, the Louisiana Community and Technical College system’s executive vice president.

Initial designs call for a 20,000-square-foot campus at a cost of about $5.8 million — $5.13 million of which would come from state funds, and about $700,000 of which would be in private money.

Officials are looking at building the college on land near the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center off Florida Boulevard in Walker, Matkin said, but nothing is set in stone.

Officials hope to enroll more than 3,000 students at the facility.

Matkin made his comments during a speech Tuesday at a Livingston Economic Development Council meeting at Forrest Grove Plantation in Denham Springs.

The proposed Livingston community college is part of legislation passed in the 2013 session that will fund 29 projects around the state to expand the Louisiana Community and Technical College system’s facilities.

The legislation provides more than $251 million in state money for new facilities for community and technical colleges statewide. The technical college system must raise a 12 percent match in private money as well, or $34.3 million statewide.

The state Board of Regents and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System have enlisted the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems to study the educational and workforce development needs of Livingston Parish, Matkin said Tuesday.

The firm should have a draft of the study done in about two weeks, he said.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, and state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, sponsored legislation in 2013 that asked the Board of Regents to commission the study, which must be completed and sent to the House and Senate’s education committees at least 60 days before the 2014 session.

Matkin said officials will have a better idea of when construction will start on the Livingston community college when the study is completed, but he said the legislation dictates that bonds for the projects can’t be issued until 2015.

“The minute those bonds are issued, there’s no reason it couldn’t go forward,” Matkin said.

Matkin said LCTCS officials have been working with Livingston Parish officials for nearly two years to develop this project.

He said LCTCS wants to put a campus in the area to expand community college opportunities to people who would rather attend a vocational school than a traditional four-year university.

The closest community colleges to Livingston Parish are Baton Rouge Community College and River Parishes Community College in Sorrento.

“If you look at Livingston Parish, it’s a growth parish,” Matkin said. “It’s becoming a huge bedroom community for both New Orleans and Baton Rouge. So I think there’s demand here.”

Matkin said officials developed their enrollment estimate for the college by looking at similar parishes and their college penetration rates, which measure a college’s effectiveness in attracting students from nearby areas.

“It is a total estimate at this point,” he said. “Obviously if we have high demand programs, we could draw from other parishes and other industries could relocate here.”