Thursday, October 17, 2013

Take Muskegon County into the future of arts and science with a YES for MCC November Fifth

On Nov. 5th, Muskegon Community College is presenting voters with a bond request that would modernize our facilities to meet today’s student needs. Anytime we are asked to spend money, it is important to question why. I usually ask: Is it more costly to address a problem, or to ignore it? When it is the quality of our young people’s education, I believe a modest investment in their future will pay off for all of us in the long run. A lot has changed since the MCC campus was built in the 1960’s, when enrollment was about 2000. We now serve nearly 5000 students, with science labs that were state of the art 40 years ago, and some classroom space in a pole barn that was built in the 1970’s to be temporary. Our faculty and staff are to be commended for their resourcefulness in making maximum use of every square inch on campus. But we also must plan to accommodate this continuing growth. Muskegon County’s student deserves better to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. The Board of Trustees worked hard to reduce the size of this request. We went to Lansing and successfully negotiated $4.6 million in state matching funds. Along with some design changes, this reduces local taxpayer cost from $31.1 million down to $23.7 million. This is roughly $1.50 per month for the homeowner of a $100,000 (market value) home and will give local students the resources they most need to be successful. The Board of Trustees has identified the main bottlenecks we need to address to continue providing quality education to future students. The first priority is our science facilities. They are overcrowded and have not been updated since they were built in the 1960s. The most important careers of today and tomorrow are in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). It’s essential we have the space and modern technology to prepare our young adults for work in these fields. That is why a new cutting-edge science wing is our first planned facilities project. Another area that needs addressing is the Creative and Performing Arts. The arts building is the one glaring exception to the quality architecture on campus. The department is housed in an undersized, energy inefficient pole barn structure that was built to be temporary, and has long outlived its usefulness. Programs that will benefit from modernized arts facilities include: Art, Broadcasting, Communication Technology & Technician, Journalism & New Media, Music, Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Theater, and more. Finally, MCC’s gymnasium is among the most overcrowded facilities on campus. It’s not just for recreation. It is used by many academic programs including Nursing, Criminal Justice, Fire Science, Health, Nutrition, Physical Education, Athletic Training, and Recreation and Respiratory Therapy. An expansion would allow us to continue offering these programs to our growing student body for years to come. We also heard feedback that MCC should have a downtown presence. We’ve studied other cities where local colleges have done this and the results have been cost-effective, and positive both for the students and the broader community. This is why we’ve added a commitment for an MCC location in downtown Muskegon. I feel strongly this proposal is a solid investment in Muskegon County’s future. The ultimate decision is up to you, the voters. You must decide if this is an investment we should make in our community. What we’ve seen elsewhere is when a community shows a commitment to quality, affordable higher education, that returns value not only to the students, but to the whole local economy. This is why I urge you to vote YES for MCC on November 5th!

Sean Mullally
Board of Trustees, Muskegon Community College

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