|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Over the past several months, state legislators have been lobbying on behalf of Westfield State College (WSC) to gain increased state aid in light of increasing enrollment and archaic academic facilities.
Prior to the efforts of State Sen. Michael Knapik and State Rep. Donald Humason Jr., WSC was earmarked for only $23.1 million for capital improvements within Gov. Deval Patrick's 10-year Higher Education Bond Bill.
However, on June 16, Knapik announced that the Legislature's Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets released modifications to the $2 billion bill, which stipulates that WSC will receive $40 million for a new Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility.
Barry Maloney, vice president of Advancement and College Relations, noted that the current science and technology labs were built in the 1950s and '70s, rendering them obsolete compared to today's technology. He explained that the college has planned for a 60,000 square foot academic facility at a cost of approximately $60 million. Maloney noted that WSC would not be able to build the much-needed building without state aid.
"We really believe that we can improve the level of quality education for our students [with the addition of this facility," Maloney said.
He added that the new building will also provide resources "to better train our students," increase the college's appeal "when competing for students" and better prepare students for life in the workforce within the Commonwealth. Maloney noted that 85 percent of WSC students remain living in Massachusetts after graduating.
"This capital plan will allow these important local institutions to update and modernize their facilities to suit the demands of the 21st century," Knapik said. "The growing enrollments of Westfield State College and Holyoke Community College [also receiving funding for capital projects] speak to the quality educational experience they provide; however, the increase in student population does put a strain on the older buildings."
Knapik noted that WSC will also receive $1.5 million for its energy co-generation initiative, which will "harness steam and energy from the exhaust steam by-product created by the college's power plant and convert it back to electricity."
Humason said that despite their efforts to lobby for increased funding on behalf of WSC, he will not feel at ease until "the ink is dry on the governor's desk." He explained that the bill has to be approved by the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means and then by the Legislature before even moving to the governor's desk.