The East Central College Board of Trustees Monday approved expanding its Rolla campus.
The vote was 5-1, with Prudence Fink Johnson voting against the motion. She said she didn’t think it was fair for Franklin County taxpayers to help fund additional expenses that would be incurred with the new facility.
Vice President of Instruction Jean McCann, along with Christina Ayres, director at the Rolla campus, brought a proposal before the board to lease a 7,900-square-foot building at 2303 N. Bishop for $7,900 per month. The college pays about $30,000 per year to lease current space, which is about half the size of the proposed site.
The Rolla campus was officially approved in 1996 to provide an LPN to RN bridge program in partnership with Rolla Technical Center.
Enrollment has steadily increased, with an average increase of 16 percent up until a few years before 2011, when it started to level off. It has remained at about a 3 percent increase for the last few years.
“A lot of that is attributed to the fact that we are essentially full,” McCann said.
Lack of Space
The current facility shares space with the Rolla Technical Center on Bridge School Road.
“We occupy about one-third of the space on the first floor,” Ayres said.
Currently, classroom space is limited to three full-time day and evening use classrooms, two full-time day and evening use labs, and one learning center/computer lab for student use. There are three staff and student services offices, one faculty office and a testing center.
There also are four classrooms available only in the evening.
The largest full-time classroom space seats about 40 students, the others average about 20.
“We do offer as many back-to-back classes as possible with 15 minute breaks in between,” Ayres said. “The reason this is so important is our enrollment is driven by daytime enrollment.”
ECC also is allowed to use two meeting rooms on a limited basis, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with limited technology at The Centre, Rolla’s health and recreation complex.
Additionally, the college subleases some space from Phelps County Regional Medical Center, with a clinical lab and a classroom separated by a curtain so only one space can be used at a time.
“It presents a challenge with scheduling,” McCann said.
The new building would allow ECC to consolidate nursing onto one campus, McCann said.
“They would get distinct space for both lecture and their clinical lab,” she said. “There would be dedicated space for the student computer lab and library and a second full classroom. Also, there would be a dedicated computer lab for testing and three full-time classrooms for daytime use. And there are more than 100 parking spaces to provide ample parking.”
McCann said the move also would allow the college to consolidate support services and could allow ECC to implement a teacher education program that would provide the first two years toward a teaching degree.
The new building would need to undergo some modifications, which would include spending $50,000 for computers for students, about $90,000 for classroom/faculty furniture, fixtures and equipment, and another $100,000 for building modifications.
“There is additional cost, but we also feel there would be additional enrollment, ECC President Jon Bauer said. “Currently, the Rolla campus is financially “breaking even” in revenues.
He feels moving into a larger building will drive up enrollment and revenues, but the college will not see those revenues come in immediately.
Fink Johnson said she is concerned that the college will be spending Franklin County taxpayer dollars to keep the Rolla campus in operation until enrollment goes up.
“Why should the taxpayer in this district pay for Rolla?” she asked. “Initially, when we went to Rolla, it was with the idea that Rolla would pay for itself and that the taxpayers here would not be paying for people out of district.
“We just voted a little while ago for our taxpayers to pay a little more and now your asking for part of that money to go to Rolla. I don’t see how that’s fair to the taxpayers here. Those dollars could stay here in this tax district.”