SLCC lands local funds for Lafayette expansion project

South Louisiana Community College received a $700,000 infusion Tuesday in its effort to build a new health and sciences building at the school’s Devalcourt Street campus in Lafayette.

The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority voted unanimously to give SLCC $700,000.

The money will be used as part of a required $2.1 million local match to secure $15 million in state funding for a $17.1 million project to expand facilities that have been cramped since soon after the new campus opened in 2005.

“We have been out of space since 2008,” SLCC Chancellor Natalie Harder said.

Harder began piecing together the $2.1 million local match last year.

The Lafayette Parish School Board in December pledged $1 million to the project and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority has committed $210,000, leaving SLCC only about $200,000 short of local funds to open the gate for the state money.

Harder said she has been in discussions with Lafayette City-Parish Government for the balance of the funds. Assuming it is secured, construction on the new building is expected to begin in 2015.

“We just think this is a great opportunity for our community to help expand that facility,” LPTFA Chairman John Arceneaux said.

The LPTFA is a self-supporting public agency that makes money through investments and financing and uses the proceeds to support public projects.

The new SLCC building will house several health care-related degree programs that are so popular the school cannot keep up with the demand, Harder said.

The waiting list for SLCC’s licensed practical nurse program is at 100, she said, and the registered nurse program has a waiting list of 300.

“Clearly there is a demand here, and there are jobs available,” Harder said.

The new 83,400-square-foot building also will be used to greatly expand SLCC’s Early College Academy, a collaboration with the Lafayette Parish school system in which high school students can earn an associate’s degree while also working on their diploma.

The program, which began in 2008, now has about 250 students.

“We are going to grow that to 1,000 students,” Harder said.

The SLCC health and sciences building project was one of 28 authorized by the state Legislature in a $251.6 million funding package for colleges in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.