SLCC begins search for matching funds

Though construction won’t begin on South Louisiana Community College’s new science and health building until 2015, the hard work of finding donors to help cover its building costs begins sooner.

The total construction cost is estimated at $17 million — with at least $2 million needed in private donations before construction can start. The project was one of 28 authorized by the state Legislature for $251.6 million in construction at colleges within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. The bill found critics in State Treasurer John Kennedy, who said the bill would threaten the state’s credit rating, and some four-year university leaders who said the legislation was an attempt to circumvent state policy for publicly funded construction and major repair projects and would siphon money out of the state’s general fund.

The legislation requires that each project have at least 12 percent in private dollars raised before financing for construction will begin.

Statewide, the colleges will have to raise a total of 12 percent or $34.3 million of the total construction costs. No bonds for the projects will be sold prior to July 1, 2015.

Discussions with community and business leaders about the $2 million match have already started, SLCC Chancellor Natalie Harder said.

Harder said the goal is to have financial commitments by the end of the year with donations in hand by the third quarter of 2014.

On SLCC’s Lafayette campus, the 83,400-square-foot building will provide needed space for the college’s recently approved registered nurse program, which will begin in 2014. Classes held at the college’s main campus building on Devalcourt Street for a high school program called Early College Academy will also move into the new building.

But those moves are down the road.

The building will help the college continue to meet the community’s need for trained health care workers, Harder said in an earlier news release. The college currently offers health care training programs for those interested in the fields of clinical laboratory technician, medical assistant, nurse assistant, patient care technician, practical nursing, surgical technology and midwifery.

The construction marks an expansion of the Devalcourt Street campus where the college put down roots, opening its three-story academic and administrative building in 2005.

That building was funded through an alternative financing structure through the creation of a nonprofit organization. Since it began in 1998, the college held classes in an old school in New Iberia and then later, in a former store and office buildings in Lafayette.