College seeks $39 million in private funds

$39 million. That’s how much Midland College is estimating to spend on new buildings on campus. The new buildings will be an Early College High School, a new dining hall, and lastly, an expansion on the current dining hall’s building.

According to Rick Bender, MC vice president of Administrative Services, planning has been underway for about two years.

“There are sets of plans, but they are not fully developed,” Bender said. Construction is also set to begin once the funds are raised.

The cost of building will be privately funded, meaning mostly donations will be used. As typical for buildings that have been built in the past, the funding will come from foundations and private donors; meaning tax payers and students will not be expected to help pay. Bender said that the college will not be using any type of revenue bond that will cause an increase in tuition or any bond that would need to be approved by voters in order to receive tax money as support.

Once some funding is received, construction will begin on the highest priority project.

Early College High School, currently confined to one hallway, verifies a need for a new building, according to Bender.

“When ECHS began [five years ago] it was originally in the Abell-Hanger Science Faculty Building,” he said. “Now it is in the Allison Fine Arts building and spilling into the Marie Hall Academic Building.”

One of the ideas behind an ECHS building is that it will make college classrooms available for their original purpose.

The fact that ECHS takes up an entire wing of the AFA building and three rooms in the MHAB is a problem because it leaves less space for college professors and departments. The new building will be located to the south of the circle, across from the tennis courts.

ECHS Principal Renee Aldrin is looking forward to growing in the new building. Her goal is to have 400 students enrolled, whereas right now the total is under 300.

Two more benefits of a new ECHS building will be an added cafeteria and science labs, both of which are nonexistent in the current ECHS. A cafeteria will double as a hangout and study spot for students.

Another building being planned is a new MC dining hall in the form of an extension to the student center. New dining facilities will extend east into the parking lot. Because the current kitchen facilities at the Jack E. Brown dining hall are not adequate, and the cost of updating the current ones was too high, an entirely new dining hall will be constructed. The new dining hall will be adjacent to the Chaparral Grill snack bar; this way the snack bar kitchen can be expanded to serve the dining hall as well.

Bender said that the current dining services offered by MC are too spread out. “There should be a synergy between students and the student center,” Bender said. This is because many students who regularly eat at the current dining hall are resident hall students, and most other students prefer to eat at the snack bar. Bender said he is hopeful that the dining hall will bring all students together and provide a great atmosphere.

ECHS teacher Stephanie Chrane is positive about the new dining hall. “[ECHS] Freshmen are not allowed to leave campus, and many seniors are scrambling to get something to eat at lunch time, so the new dining hall will be very beneficial,” Chrane said.

Allee Reyes, both an ECHS Senior and MC student, agrees that the new dining hall is a good idea, saying: “I have never really gone to the dining hall to eat before because it is too far away to walk to and from in time. I do think the new dining hall will bridge a gap between students, as many will be eating in the same place.”

The final construction plans include an addition to the current dining hall building in order to house the Petroleum Professional Development Center, which is currently in downtown Midland. The plan is to expand the dining hall to the west in order for it to fan out.

The additions will include a large lecture hall/auditorium, and will keep the kitchen in order to service seminars and conferences that may be held in the building. The kitchen may also enable a hospitality program to be established in the future.

The auditorium may also be used to host performances and ECHS graduation. MC President Steve Thomas said that the auditorium, which is planned to seat 400, will be a more spacious option than the Wagner & Brown Auditorium in the AFA, which holds 248. Currently the next largest meeting space is the Chaparral Center, which seats 5,500.

The new buildings are expected to bring new technology to MC. The ECHS building is planned to have much needed science labs and electronics (such as computer labs) in order to meet all of their students’ needs. The PPDC is also in need of up-to-date technology and space to function and grow.

The general buzz around campus is excitement about the potential of growth for MC.