Turk File

LPSS contributes $1 million to SLCC health building

by Leslie Turk

Funds will expand Early College Academy from 250 to 1,000 students

South Louisiana Community College is half way to its private match for a new Health and Sciences building on its Lafayette campus. The Lafayette Parish School Board unanimously approved $1 million in funding to SLCC in early December.

SLCC will dedicate a wing of the building to the Early College Academy. In partnership with the school board, ECA currently enrolls 250 students in grades 9 through 12 who will complete high school with an associate's degree.

With the new building, the academy can grow to 1,000 students.

"This will be the first partnership of its kind in Louisiana to graduate 1,000 high school students with associate's degrees.

Along with a wing dedicated to the Early College Academy, which allows high school students to earn an associate's degree, the 83,400-square-foot Health and Sciences building will house SLCC's new Registered Nursing program.

There's no other partnership that does that," SLCC Chancellor Natalie Harder said in a prepared announcement. "Expansion also offers more tuition savings for families as ECA students earn a post-secondary degree at no expense to parents."

An associate's degree at SLCC costs approximately $3,500 per year in tuition and fees. With 1,000 high school students earning a simultaneous associate's degree, Lafayette families could see a savings of $1.75 million in tuition and fees.

"This expanded partnership between SLCC and the Lafayette Parish School System speaks volumes for the collaborative spirit of Lafayette and sets the stage for the high caliber college and career path readiness we want for all of our young adults," LPSS Superintendent Pat Cooper said in the announcement. "Lafayette Parish employers and the local economy will reap the benefits of this collaboration for generations to come in the form of a competent, ready and willing workforce."

ECA opened in 2008 with only 45 students. It enrolls students from Lafayette Parish who scored Basic in language and math on their seventh-grade statewide Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (iLEAP) exam, among other standardized testing criteria. All 45 students from the first class graduated last year with associate's degrees.

In addition to a wing dedicated to ECA, the 83,400-square-foot Health and Sciences building will house SLCC's new Registered Nursing program. At full capacity, the RN program will graduate 60 RNs per year.

The Health and Sciences building is part of the state's $240 million "Facilities with a Purpose" bill that includes 24 construction projects on 14 campuses within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. SLCC must raise $2 million in private funds for the new building. Those funds will be combined with $15 million from the state for the project.