Thursday, September 27, 2001

$21M sought to build new N. Ky. college

Educators to ask state for funding

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EDGEWOOD — Kentucky education officials took the wraps Wednesday off a $30 million plan to greatly expand Northern Kentucky's community and technical college system.

        With $10 million in state funding already in hand to build a Northern Kentucky community college off Interstate 75 in Boone County, officials said they plan to seek $20.7 million more in state money to broaden the new college's reach.

[photo] Steve Austin (foreground), 43, a student at Northern Kentucky Technical College, studies on Wednesday while officials announce plans to expand the region's college system.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        “This is our long-range vision for Northern Kentucky, which is one of the major engines driving the economy of Kentucky,” said Michael McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

        “This is a very growing part of the state,” he said, “and we want to address the educational needs of this area ... and serve this entire region.”

        Northern Kentucky is the largest region of the state without a two-year community college.

        Northern Kentucky University, established as a two-year college in 1968, used to fill that slot, but it made the changeover to a four-year program in 1972.

        College officials will seek the additional $20.7 million from state lawmakers during the 2002 General Assembly session.

        Gov. Paul Patton, who attended Wednesday morning's announcement, said he supports the long-term plan but admitted finding the money will be difficult.

        Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the state budget was suffering from the slowing national economy.

        Mr. Patton has said more than $300 million will have to be cut from the state's budget this year.

        Still, he said, developing a community college in Northern Kentucky will encourage more people to attend college.

        “If you build it, they will come,” Mr. Patton said. “When you build a campus in a community, where people see it every day, and they can see what is going on, they participate.

        “How we can (pay for it), I have no idea, because you know the problems that we face,” Mr. Patton said. “But the need cannot be debated, and I believe if it were built today, it would be full today.”

        Of the $10 million state lawmakers allocated last year, $3.3 million was to purchase 41 acres of land at the Interstate 75 Mount Zion Road interchange south of Florence in Boone County.

        The land was purchased from Jim and Thelma Davis of Morningview in southern Kenton County.

        Mr. McCall said the couple could have received far more money from developers but wanted to see their land used to benefit the community.

        “I think it's a wonderful idea” to build a community college on the property, Mrs. Davis said in a statement. “It's going to benefit our community. It's a nice location, central to the expressway.”

        The state will use $5 million to build a 30,000-square-foot building that will be the flagship facility of the new campus, Mr. McCall said.

        Work will begin the spring with the building set to open in two years.

        The remaining money will be used to:

        • Lease up to 5,000 square feet of space in downtown Covington for a satellite campus.

        • Begin the process of establishing satellite campuses in Pendleton County, most likely in Falmouth, and in Grant County.

        • Expand services offered at the region's existing technical schools in Highland Heights, Park Hills and Edgewood. The plan includes an expansion of the Edgewood site, which is across from St. Elizabeth Medical Center and specializes in health-care education.

        • Add four to five buildings at the Boone County main campus of the two-year community college.

        The additional funding is needed to complete all phases of the plan, Mr. McCall said.

        “The system's strategy over the next 10 to 15 years includes an increased presence in the urban river communities and new course offerings in suburban and rural counties where populations are booming,” he said.

        One of the major focuses of the system will be work force development, officials said.

        “This community college is a great accomplishment for not only our existing industries already here, but also in attracting new companies to Northern Kentucky,” said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore.

        A search for a president of the community college is under way, Mr. McCall said. Six finalists will be interviewed next month.

        Former state Sen. Joe Meyer, a Covington lawyer, was appointed by Mr. Patton to head a nominating committee that will recommend members of the college's board of directors, also known as regents.

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