$33M upgrade expands training, adds housing


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The $15.25 million Career and Tech Center at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna is under construction and on schedule to open in time for 2013 fall classes. The project, which also includes the first student housing on campus, will allow KPC to expand training for Alaska’s high-demand jobs in the resource industries.

Photo/Jesse Glaves/KPC

Construction of more than $33 million worth of new facilities at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna is moving ahead as scheduled, College Director Gary Turner said.

Kenai Peninsula College, or KPC, is adding a $17.8 million student housing building along with a $15.25 million Career and Tech Center to its Kenai River Campus. The projects are expected to be finished in August 2013, just time for fall classes.

“It’s a significant amount of money that’s being injected into our local economy and that’s aside from the fact that it’s going to allow the college to expand some of its most popular programs,” KPC Advancement Program Manager Suzie Kendrick said.

The 19,000 square-foot Career and Tech Center will allow the college to expand its training for Alaska’s high-demand fields of oil, gas and electricity production, Kendrick said. KPC expects opening the building to have long-term workforce development implications for the state.

Turner said the center will further what is already a strong process technology program at KPC.

“We conduct the best training in the process tech field in the country and the major producers have told us that time after time,” he said.

The interest oil companies show in the school’s students prior to their graduation is a testament to KPC’s reputation and why providing opportunities for more students with new facilities will pay off, Kendrick noted. She said the school currently has waiting lists for students hoping to get into its process technology programs.

“We just had ExxonMobil here giving tests to our students hoping to hire them before BP and Conoco can,” she said.

The Career and Tech Center will free up a significant amount of space in existing buildings, Kendrick said, giving the school more room to expand health services education. She said KPC is adding a firefighter-training program for the upcoming spring semester as well.

The Kenai Peninsula College campus in Soldotna is situated along the scenic Kenai River and is adding student housing set to open in fall 2013. The site of the $17.8 million housing project, seen at bottom left, will have space for 96 students and six resident assistants. (Photo/Courtesy/KPC)

Situated just 300 feet from the Kenai River, KPC’s student housing facility under construction at its Kenai River Campus will be the first of its kind for the college. The school also operates a campus in Homer and extensions in Seward and Anchorage.

“KPC, historically, has not had residential on-campus housing available,” Kendrick said. “It will allow students who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend the college to attend, that’s what’s so exciting for us.”

The housing will give prospective students from rural Alaska an opportunity to continue their education without having to move immediately to a large city or worry about a place to live, she said.

“KPC is a great fit for students from small places. Here, they can get their feet wet and see if college is right for them,” Kendrick said.

The two-story dormitory will be broken into 24, 1,030 square-foot apartments. Each apartment will have 4 bedrooms, a bathroom, full kitchen and a common area. It will be home for 96 students and 6 resident assistants. The building site is part of a wooded, 309-acre tract of land owned by the college and is within walking distance to the rest of the campus, according to KPC publications.

Housing will cost each student $3,200 per semester and applications will be taken in April on a first-come first-serve basis, Turner said.  Students must first register for classes in order to be eligible for on-campus housing, he said.

While initial funding for the new buildings at KPC was approved through legislative grants, Turner said all housing in the university system is self-funded and KPC housing will be no different. Plans are for the dorms and other university buildings to be rented out for training events and conferences in summer when students are gone.

“There isn’t a conference center on the central peninsula and it’s been a need for many years and folks are talking about it a lot,” Turner said. “I think we can fill some of that niche through our facility.”

The school has the support of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, he said.

Turner recently announced an agreement between KPC and Alaska Christian College for the school to offer meal plan options to some of KPC’s new on-campus residents. Under the agreement, Alaska Christian College will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner to the first 30 students who apply. Meal plans will range in cost from $1,200 for 100 meals up to $1,725 for 200 meals, Turner said. The agreement is part of a long working relationship KPC has had with the school, he said, and gives students at the two colleges the “opportunity to break bread together in Alaska Christian College’s inviting dining hall.”

Turner said he’s excited about the prospect of opening the new facilities and what the mean for the future of the Kenai Peninsula as a whole.

“It’s a win-win-win,” he said. “That’s such a darn cliché but it’s true for our campus, for our community and for business and industry.”

 

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

 

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