KPC housing an investment in our community's future

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010

Simply looking at the numbers, we can easily make the case for construction of student housing on the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College. We would encourage Gov. Sean Parnell to approve that funding as he considers projects in the state's $3.1 billion capital budget on that basis alone.

Over the past few years, growth at the school has been phenomenal. The number of students enrolled at KPC has grown 20 percent over the last two years. Last fall, 2,326 students were enrolled, up from 1,944 students during the 2008 fall semester. Credit hours have increased 26 percent, and the number of full-time students has grown from 319 to 393.

The school has been pushing for student housing for a number of years, in large part due to interest from students in Alaska's rural communities, for whom the university system's large urban campuses would not be a good fit. Past studies have indicated broad regional support for student housing, and the school's growth has, if anything, only strengthened that support.

Included in the capital budget and a general obligation bond measure to be approved by voters next fall is $30 million for projects at the school. The capital budget includes $1.8 million for student housing design work, while the bond measure includes $16 million for the project.

But for prospective students here on the Peninsula and from other areas of the state, the pitch for student housing is as much about future potential, about seeing growth in our educational community that mirrors our growth as regional medical and retail hubs, as it is about current need.

A top-notch education is available at KPC. There are KPC graduates making contributions in the business community, in our schools, in the medical and emergency response fields, and throughout the oil, gas and mining industries. That's a far reach for what is a relatively small institution.

But, there is an acknowledged need for a cultural shift in Alaska, with more value placed on postsecondary education. The increase in student enrollment shows that KPC is indeed a leader in changing attitudes. On-campus student housing is the next logical step in supporting and growing a vibrant college community.

Investing in the college is an investment in the future of our region and our state. Gov. Parnell has demonstrated a commitment that philosophy, elevating a new science building for the University of Alaska Fairbanks to the top of his capital funding list and pushing for new scholarship opportunities for Alaska's students.

We encourage Gov. Parnell to take the same approach as he examines the capital budget passed by the Legislature, and to direct state resources toward making what is already a great institution even better.

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