Several hundred people watched Tuesday morning as local, state, and education officials dug up the first shovelfuls of dirt for a new three-story building at Roane State Community College.
Construction work on the 63,000-square-foot Health Sciences and Technology Building will start next week and could be complete by January 2014, RSCC President Gary Goff said during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Oak Ridge campus.
Planned for several years, the $13.8 million project will allow the overcrowded Roane State campus to offer new programs such as surgical and medical lab technology, and the building will include a flex lab, which can be set up to suit the training needs of area industries, a press release said.
It will also have more space for nursing, massage therapy, and pharmacy technician students, and it will include faculty offices and two large stadium-style classrooms for academic courses and community use. In addition, the college’s occupational therapy assistant program will be housed there.
After vigorous fundraising efforts and with the help of the Oak Ridge and Anderson County community, Roane State raised $2.5 million for the expansion during a 2008-2010 campaign, and the Tennessee government will give matching funds of $9 million, the press release said. The Oak Ridge City Council and Anderson County Commission both approved $500,000 contributions for the expansion project.
The college has committed $1.3 million to add a shell for the third story, and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $1 million to finish that floor. Officials at Tuesday’s ceremony gave credit to Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, for helping to secure that funding.
Roane State’s Oak Ridge campus opened in 1999. Originally designed for 1,800 students, the campus now has approximately 2,700 students.
Goff cited the college’s positive impact on job placement rates, grade point averages, and the workforce.
“We have a definite impact on economic development and growth,” he said.
Officials at Tuesday’s ceremony touted the importance of education, including to business leaders, and emphasized the significance of being able to proceed with the expansion despite national economic woes.
“This has been a miracle,” said fundraising co-chair David Coffey, a former Tennessee representative. He called the area an oasis for education, with a top-notch high school, two community colleges, and the University of Tennessee.
Roane State has been ranked the 27th best community college in the nation by StateUniversity.com. Founded in 1972, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, and Wartburg.