Chattanooga State Community College plans to add 15 acres to its main campus on Amnicola Highway in 2011, paving the way to become the first community college in the state with dorms and bachelor's degrees, officials say.
"I don't know of anything bigger that's happened to Chattanooga State," said Jim Catanzaro, the school's president. "We have maxed this college out. This will allow us to grow enormously. ... I expect to get four-year degrees in the next five years."
The land is owned by Olan Mills and will be paid for with a $9 million grant approved by a Tennessee Board of Regents committee this week. The full board will vote to approve on project today, officials said.
All community colleges in the Board of Regents system were eligible to compete for $88 million in surplus dollars from the state budget. The money initially was set aside for TennCare funding, but was freed up after the state used federal stimulus funds for TennCare instead.
Wacker Chemical also is contributing $3 million because some of the space will be used to train its future employees, Catanzaro said. About $3.5 million will come from Chattanooga State, he said.
"I am very excited about this," said Howard Roddy, a member of the Board of Regents. "This will help create more jobs for the residents of Hamilton County."
Still, Roddy said he's wary of Catanzaro using a major campus expansion to grow the two-year school's mission to include bachelor's degrees. A bill passed this year by the Legislature called for community colleges to focus on technical training and act as more of a steppingstone to four-year universities.
Roddy said he thinks Chattanooga State should stay focused on the state's initiatives.
"Right now, the emphasis is on building capacity within community colleges," said Roddy. "I don't foresee, for a while, that vision of expanding community colleges (to offer bachelor's degrees)."
Catanzaro said that even if his school is given the go-ahead to create bachelor's degrees, it won't compete with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He said he plans to offer programs such as automotive and nuclear engineering technology, not English and history.
"They are going to be degrees that are designed specifically for business and industry in Chattanooga," he said.
Olan Mills move
Olan Mills will move its operations to its other location on Shallowford Road, officials said.
Chief Financial Officer Laura Carden said selling to Chattanooga State was a good decision for both the growing college and the photography company. She said Olan Mills doesn't have plans to downsize.
"We are excited to move into one building," Carden said. "Chattanooga State is growing, and this will be a good fit for them, and it will make sense for us."
The Olan Mills acquisition will mean more parking and classroom space at Chattanooga State, officials said. The property includes 351 paved parking spots, a 25,000-square-foot garage and a 186,000- square-foot building.
The building will allow twice as much space for the school's engineering technology program, which has tripled enrollment in the last three years to 820 students, Catanzaro said.
He said the college also plans to move the industrial electricity, industrial maintenance, machine tool technology and visual arts programs onto the Olan Mills property.
The space left on the main campus will allow room for the theater, literature and foreign language programs to grow, he said.
Staff writer Kelli Gauthier contributed to this report.