Pictured, left to right: Rep. Jeremy Dunham, Rep. Charles Sargent, Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, Mayor Ken Moore, Mayor Rogers Anderson, and Bethany Lay, Columbia State executive for advancement.
(COLUMBIA, Tenn. – Feb. 18, 2014) - - - Columbia State Community College held a press conference at its Williamson County campus Feb. 4, publicly thanking Gov. Bill Haslam for including the college in his budget the night before and updating the community on the status of the new campus.
“I am very thankful to the governor,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “He has recognized this need for quite some time and this year funding was available for budget inclusion. Also, I am grateful for the never-ending dedication for providing higher education opportunities and this project by Representative Charles Sargent and Mayor Ken Moore.”
It’s been a little more than a decade since the plan for a new Williamson County campus was submitted to the Tennessee Board of Regents with a request that it be added to the capital projects list. In December 2011, Columbia State was able to purchase 36 acres off Liberty Pike in Franklin, thanks to the continued efforts of legislators, community leaders and college officials.
Smith was joined by city, county and state legislators who have been involved in the project at all different levels.
“Thanks to Dr. Smith for her leadership on this project, and kudos to Charles Sargent,” Rep. Glen Casada said. “He has carried the water on this for 10 years. That’s dedication, and we in this community are proud that he has fought long and hard for this.”
Rep. Sargent explained that the long fight to get the campus approved was not one person’s fight but a team effort.
“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Sargent said. “It’s a project that’s well-deserved. Constituents and the students of Williamson County deserve a beautiful campus…we’re very proud and very excited to receive the funding.”
Rep. Jeremy Durham, who is new to the project, expressed that he’s glad he has the opportunity to be a part of the project and its future.
“I look forward to continuing the efforts that these folks have done,” Durham said. “It’s a very good project, and I look forward to doing my part in the future to make sure that it continues.”
Franklin mayor Ken Moore expressed the importance of developing the workforce and community of Franklin and Williamson County, stating that a lot of effort has gone into raising awareness of the college and the importance of having a newer, larger campus.
“Today is such an exciting day,” Moore said. “We thank the governor for recognizing the importance to our community. We are also excited that he’s raised such awareness of community colleges in his proposed two years of free community colleges.”
Moore said that he’ll continue the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to help reach the goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans earning college degrees by 2025, especially in Franklin and Williamson County.
Rogers Anderson, Williamson County mayor, remarked that he was excited about what the opportunity will bring to the community and how it will continue to serve the 33,000 Williamson County K-12 students as they graduate.
“It gives parents another chance and another opportunity to continue that education model that is so important,” Anderson said. “Thank you, governor, for hearing us and working with our delegates and providing something to Middle Tennessee.”
After city and county officials expressed their thanks, Smith detailed the plans for the new campus, explaining the upcoming processes and what can be expected in the upcoming months.
Three buildings are included in Phase I plans, and the campus will feature a geothermal heating and cooling system and wireless access throughout. A new arts and humanities building will house the commercial entertainment and film crew technology programs, as well as distance education classrooms.
A much needed science, technology, engineering and mathematics building will have biology and chemistry labs, an information technology center, and physics and nursing simulation labs. The administration building will include student services, a library, testing and tutoring centers, a coffee shop, and a workforce lab and community room for hosting workshops, seminars and dinners.
“It is our goal, as we continue to watch for the Appropriations Act to be finalized, to begin site preparation in May or June,” Smith said. “In July, we will begin construction…the intent and goal is that we will move into the facility in the spring of 2016.”
Currently, the Williamson County campus has nearly 1,300 students in attendance, and once Phase I has been completed, the campus will be able to accommodate 2,200 students according to the plans from Bauer Askew, the architect selected to design the new campus.
“Again, I can’t say enough about the people who worked to make this happen,” Smith said. “It’s not a Columbia State project; it’s a Williamson County project. It is for the citizens of Williamson County. It is for the future students and future leaders of this community, because education is what gives one that ability to grow, to do, and to be.”
Smith pointed out that having a college in the community makes education available to all. At a time when tuition rates are at an all-time high, she explained that a community college allows an individual to get an affordable education that will help them enter the workforce or continue their educational goals at a four-year university.
“Having a community college allows individuals to stay home and get an affordable education that is high quality and will take them anywhere they want to go,” Smith said. “Columbia State students go to Vanderbilt, they go to Brown, they go to Stanford, and they go to Middle Tennessee State University. They also go to work at Williamson Medical Center, Nissan and many different areas in our community.”
Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the sixth largest higher education system in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.
Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at tncommunitycolleges.org.
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