A western Massachusetts community college has announced a major contribution from a former professor to help launch a state of the art health education center. The new facility will help meet the demand for skilled workers in the region’s growing health care industry.
Holyoke Community College at a meeting of the school’s board of trustees Tuesday morning announced a $1 million contribution to a $5.3 million campaign to equip a new center for health education. College president William Messner said the center will open in the fall of 2015.
" The technology that we need for our nursing program, our rad-tech program is quite expensive,so it will help us with that and hopefully leverage other dollars to support the outfitting of the building."
The health education center will be located in a former commercial photography studio building about a mile from the main campus. It will mark the first expansion of the college since 1974. After the nursing and radiologic technology programs move to the new location the lab space currently housing the programs will be renovated to become a life sciences center. The two-phase project is estimated to cost a total of $18 million.
The $1 million donation – contingent on the college’s fundraising organization finding 1,000 donors to give any amount to the Building Healthy Communities Campaign – is from Elaine Marieb. She was a professor at HCC for 25 years, retiring in 1995. She authored several best-selling textbooks on anatomy and physiology.
" She is an incredible individual and it is wonderful for us because it energizes the campaign," said Erica Broman, Vice President of Institutional Development at HCC. The new center will lead to a 25 percent increase in enrollment in the college’s health care programs.
" Given the fact that health care is such a central employer in the region there are always positions available for our students," said Broman.
There are also plans to use the center as a neighborhood resource to provide check-ups for residents and immunizations for schoolchildren.
Under a reorganization of the state’s community college system in 2012, Governor Deval Patrick called for an emphasis on workforce development programs tailored to the particular needs of the regions where the 15 community colleges are located. Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland told HCC trustees the school has been a leader in the statewide agenda.
" President Messner and his colleagues have taken the lead in reaching out to the new casino gambling industry to make sure there is a workforce supply. This campus is a leader in STEM work along with other campuses. We are on that agenda and Bill Messner is a major leader of it."
Community colleges received a $20 million boost in state funding this year along with a new performance-based formula for dividing up the money to the individual campuses and a requirement to freeze student fees. Gov. Patrick has proposed a $13 million increase to community colleges in next year’s state budget.