Over the past couple of months, Southwestern Community College President Dr. Don Tomas has been meeting with officials in Macon County to determine a plan for expanding the Macon Campus. The proposed plan moved forward last week during a joint meeting with SCC’s Board of Trustees and Macon County Commissioners.
SCC’s Macon Campus was constructed on county-owned property in 2007 as a joint effort to provide higher education opportunities in Macon County. The property sits on 19 acres of county owned land. With enrollment numbers hitting at all-time highs both last fall and for the spring semester at the Macon Campus, Tomas has been tasked with finding a way to better accommodate the growing interest for education in Macon County.
Commissioners unanimously agreed that when the county purchased the parcel of land currently occupied by SCC, it was with the intent to use it for educational opportunities in Macon County. “I think we can all agree that we do not have any other plans to use this property for anything other than educational opportunities,” said Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin.
Commissioners directed County Attorney Chester Jones to work with SCC to develop a memorandum of agreement between the county and SCC that outlines the immediate and future needs of the school as it pertains to the property. Jones was also advised to include language that would protect such an agreement down the road pending a change in leadership on the board of commissioners over the next 30 years.
With such an agreement in place, Tomas informed commissioners that SCC will be ready to proceed forward with expansion plans as soon as funds from the state are available. Tomas explained that although SCC does not currently have money to break ground on the project, having an MOA in place will expedite the process as soon as grants and expansion money become available.
With the community college’s long-term future in mind SCC leaders created a 30-year master plan to expand the Macon Campus to offer the same courses and services as the Jackson Campus. The master plan is broken down into phases that will call for an expansion to accommodate growth trends in the coming years.
The courses currently being offered at the Grove Center have already outgrown the building and with the recent trend expected to continue, Tomas explained that a need for additional space is imminent. Tomas explained that not only does SCC’s vision include expansion to accommodate students’ needs, the community college wants to move toward offering electives, courses, and opportunities such as a coffee house to give students the traditional college experience.
The first phase of expansion for the program was identified for the Macon Campus’ public safety and training programs which have significantly outgrown the current location and continue to attract students from all over the country. The proposed expansion is designed to grow the program and provide space for all course and training to be conducted in one location.