COD to build new classroom building

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The College of DuPage Board of Trustees has committed to build a new classroom building some time in the near future, but not without some concerns.

“This is not enough information,” Trustee Katherine Hamilton said before casting the lone dissenting vote on approving the plan for a building that the college has already set aside $33 million to build.

The college has spent $550 million on campus renovations in recent years. The college has recently begun examining the need for a new classroom building to address future needs.

Hamilton expressed unease with several factors, including unknowns about future enrollment growth and the fact that the college is, in her view, overtaxing the District 502 community at a time when home values have fallen and tuition has increased.

Moreover, the lack of a specific price, and specific size, for a new facility troubled Hamilton.

Although the college has $33 million set aside, another $20 million might be available from the State of Illinois’ capital fund, leaving final plans for a building up in the air.

“This is simply not good enough,” Hamilton said. “You would never find this in the private sector.”

But other trustees saw it differently.

“This (classroom space) has been an issue for a very long time,” Trustee Kim Savage said. “If we wait long enough until we already need it, we’ll be in a hard place.”

Trustee Nancy Svoboda, a former instructor at COD, agreed, relating her own experiences, where she sometimes taught in the student lounge and other rooms that weren’t “necessarily the best environment for my students.”

Svoboda also pointed out that the college was steadily adding new programs and sometimes growing out of facilities.

“The new health building very quickly got outsized,” she said.

College of DuPage Board of Trustees Chairman Erin Birt agreed that a new building is needed.

“We exceed 90 percent capacity during peak times on Mondays and Wednesdays,” Birt said. “This not only makes it difficult to schedule classes, but it also severely limits our ability to further grow traditional enrollment. As we continue to attract more students, we simply need more classroom and lab space.”

But Hamilton pressed on the issue of unknown variables, including future growth in enrollment.

College Executive Vice President Joe Collins suggested one scenario where an additional 1,600 students might be accommodated at the building, translating into an additional $8 million in tuition revenue each year.

Hamilton also suggested that there might be another way to accommodate enrollment growth.

“We could rent space, it could be cheaper in the long run,” she said. “What happens in 10 years if the demographic goes south?”

President Robert Breuder said that the college is in the enviable position of being able to build a facility of $30 million or more without having to resort to a referendum.

“This is just saying ‘move,’” he said of the vote.

While educational specifications have not been determined, college officials anticipate the new west campus building will be between approximately 75,000 and 100,000 square feet and will include a significant number of 35-seat general purpose classrooms, smaller 25-seat classrooms, two 50-seat general science classrooms, four 25-seat computer classrooms and an open computer lab. Additionally, the new building will house administrative space and include unfinished space to accommodate future instructional needs.

“It would be a terrible waste to turn students away from opportunities at the college because we lack the classrooms to serve them,” Birt said.

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