A new $45.7 million Columbia State Community College Williamson Campus will be in a class of its own following its March 2016 opening.
The 36-acre campus on Liberty Pike in Franklin was planned to accommodate up to 2,200 students and features three initial buildings: a two-story arts & humanities building, a two-story sciences building, and a three-story administration and student services Building. Seven additional campus buildings are planned for the future if funding becomes available.
“If a corporation wants to pay for a future building today, we would start construction on that building tomorrow,” says Dr. Janet F. Smith, CSCC president.
The two-year Columbia State Community College was founded in 1966, and its main campus remains in Columbia. CSCC expanded into Williamson County in 1971, and used several different sites until 1989 when consolidation occurred into the current location at the Williamson County Center on Claude Yates Drive next to Franklin High School.
The Yates Drive facility has become technologically outdated and overcrowded and will close once classes begin at the Liberty Pike site. The new campus will have amenities such as science labs, computer labs, a nursing skills lab, library, bookstore, film labs and recording soundstages. There will also be a coffee shop along with other student gathering areas.
“One of our current programs at the Williamson County Center – film and stage crew technology – is actually being taught in old garages that don't have heat or cooling,” Smith says. “The instructors and students make it work, but those conditions are not appropriate for a college setting. We needed this new campus.”
Smith says she expects initial enrollment to be robust in March 2016 thanks in part to the introduction in 2015 of a statewide Tennessee Promise initiative. Tennessee Promise allows high school students to apply for two years of tuition-free education at a community college or technical school in Tennessee.
Funding for the $45.7 million campus included $36.8 million from the State of Tennessee, while Columbia State matched by 10 percent ($3.68 million), and the state purchased the land for $6.25 million. Tennessee Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who chairs the state's House Finance Ways and Means Committee, was instrumental in procuring the $6.25 million to buy the campus land.
One student who will attend classes at the new site is Katie LeFevre of Nolensville, who currently commutes to the Yates Drive building to study nursing, and she will complete her associate degree at the Liberty Pike campus.
“The Yates building is really cramped, so the new campus is exciting – especially since it will have a nursing skills lab to simulate actual hospital settings,” LeFevre says. “I hope all the wonderful professors who teach at the Yates building will transfer to the new campus.”
Columbia State's new campus is just the latest news in a growing higher education environment here. Other institutions that serve the community include Belmont University's Cool Springs campus, King University, O'More College of Design, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Lipscomb University.