Even as enrollment has tumbled, Housatonic Community College has begun expansion and renovation of Lafayette Hall with a new 46,000 square foot addition, including a new Welcome Center to better serve students, officials have announced. The renovated spaces will also enlarge the college library and academic support center, and create new science labs and additional offices for student services. The $37.5 million project is expected to create more than 600 construction-related jobs, according to published reports.
“The new space will allow us to expand academic programs and provide new ones to meet today’s employment requirements,” said college president Paul Broadie. “We are projecting adding programs specifically in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) courses.”
Enrollment as of September 2015 was 5,257 students, just slightly lower than last year’s 5,286 but significantly down from a peak of 6,197 in 2010 and 6,077 in 2012. Officials told the Fairfield County Business Journal that enrollment had steadied at 5,369 students this month. Enrollment topped 5,000 for the first time in 2008, and continued to rise before declining in recent years.
The Bridgeport college moved from its location in the former Singer Metric Building at 510 Barnum Ave. to Lafayette Hall at 900 Lafayette Blvd. back in 1997. At that time, the college had approximately 2,700 students enrolled and immediately experienced a significant enrollment increase, according to the college. But the peak years now appear to be in the rear view mirror.
Enrollment is down across the state’s community college system. Combined full-time and part-time enrollment at the 12 community colleges stands at 52,851, down 4.2 percent from fall 2014, according to state data, the Hartford Business Journal reported. Enrollment this year is the lowest it has been since 2008. Year-by-year fall enrollment at Housatonic Community College:
- 2006 – 4,431
- 2007 – 4,475
- 2008 – 5,081
- 2009 – 5,609
- 2010 – 6,197
- 2011 - 5,975
- 2012 – 6,077
- 2013 – 5,813
- 2014 – 5,286
- 2015 – 5,257
According to College Navigator, 58 percent of students at Housatonic are age 24 and under, 42 percent are 25 or older. Just over two-thirds of current students (68%) attend on a part-time basis.
Seven years ago, in 2008, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the opening of a $55 million addition and renovations. Gov. M. Jodi Rell was joined by state Public Works Commissioner Raeanne V. Curtis, HCC President Anita Gliniecki, Mayor Bill Finch and other officials in the college’s courtyard at the front of the new facility, Beacon Hall, which formerly was the Sears Building.
The new college building opened in 2008 included 174,500 square feet of new and renovated space, housing 30 classrooms, 10 computer classrooms, computer repair and networking rooms, early childhood education facilities, labs for foreign languages and English as a Second Language, and an academic department and faculty offices. Also included were a new college bookstore; wellness center for aerobics, cardio and dance; satellite cafeteria, and a 500-seat event center.
At that time, Housatonic was one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation, according to officials. The college had 5,081 students, representing a 13.8 percent increase from the previous year and a 92 percent increase from 12 years previous, just before HCC moved out of its old East Side location to Lafayette Street.
As the new construction gets underway this year, the college will continue all normal procedures and activities. Construction is expected to be completed in 2017, in time for the college’s 50th anniversary.
Earlier this year, Dr. Paul Broadie II became Housatonic’s 5th president: “Housatonic Community College has been, and will continue to be, the premier community resource for education, training, community service, and quality of life enrichment,” he said in a message featured on the college website. “I am driven by the academic focus and culture of care and support that runs throughout the college, resulting in goal attainment and student success.”