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SCCC dreams big: $24M science facility

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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Schenectady County Community College’s path to the future could start with development of a stateof-the-art science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility, in 2015.

College officials included a proposal for the estimated $24 million building with a health science facility among projects suggested for funding in Schenectady County’s capital improvement program. The proposed building would house science laboratories for chemistry, biology and physics, among “other emerging technology and sciences,” according to the request included in the fi veyear program.

Among other things, the building would allow the college to establish high-demand programs in the health care field, in addition to providing general classroom space. The aim would be to have a modern teaching facility to train a local workforce to meet employer demands, states the request.

The project would be funded equally by the state and county, according to the request. The capital improvement program recommends it for future funding.

College officials stressed the request for funding is preliminary and that any plans for the facility represent a vision. President Quintin Bullock said the college is in the process of choosing a fi rm to develop a master plan to better define long-range plans, including the development of a STEM building.

“It’s important for us to stay abreast of new demands and work collaboratively with business and industry to develop programs that support their current and future workforce needs,” he said Tuesday. “That’s what the master plan would help us defi ne.”

Bullock said the college is experiencing a growth in its science and technology programs, meaning there’s a growing demand for additional lab space. In addition, he said there’s also a need to add programs to supplement technology classes already being taught.

“It’s important for us to work toward a facility that will support the college’s growth in STEM area,” he said.

The college added a nanoscale materials associate’s degree program in 2006 as part of a partnership with Union College and SuperPower, a Schenectady-based company developing electrical superconductors.

In 2010 the college added an associate’s degree program in alternative energy and a one-year certificate program in storage battery technology. Both were in response to General Electric’s construction of a $100 million battery manufacturing plant.

POPULAR PROGRAMS

The college’s math, science, technology and health classes have experienced the greatest growth in enrollment. But the nanoscale materials and alternative energy technology programs are among the ones in which college offi cials anticipate exponential growth in coming years.

Community college degrees are expected to provide grounding for technician jobs at companies like GlobalFoundries, a company that will be adding jobs as computer chip production ramps up in Saratoga County. The company already employs 1,600 people at its campus in the Luther Forest Technology Park in Malta and could add 300 workers once a new manufacturing clean room is completed late next year.

Of course, funding for future construction at the college won’t come easy amid the still-sluggish economy and the rising cost of state mandates county legislators are now contending with in the 2013 budget. The $269 million county spending plan for next year carries a 7.49 percent increase in the tax levy — more the double the increase allowed under the stateimposed 2.95 percent tax cap — and allocates only $1.9 million in county appropriations toward capital project requests.

“It sounds like a worthy project, but all these things cost money,” County Attorney Chris Gardner said.

And that’s where the master plan comes in, said Denise Murphy McGraw, the chairwoman of the college’s board of trustees. With a blueprint for future growth laid out, she said the trustees and college can begin seeking funding avenues to help decrease the burden on county taxpayers.

“Everybody can see what’s happening in our community and how important STEM is,” she said. “We need facilities that are going to be able to train those first- and secondyear students so that they can move seamlessly over into four-year programs or the job force.”

 
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