SSCC enrollment down despite personnel reductions and increases in College Credit Plus classes –
By Patricia Beech –
Plans to start construction on a Southern State Community College (SSCC) campus in Adams County were put on hold on Wednesday, Sept. 19 after the college’s board of trustees unanimously voted to reject bids submitted by three construction firms, according to an SSCC media release.
SSCC President Kevin Boys informed the Board that state law prohibits the college from entering into a contract on a project that exceeds its estimate by 10 percent.
The lowest bid submitted for the Adams County Satellite Campus and Workforce Development Centerproject was $1.3 million dollars, or approximately 40 percent of the advertised estimate of $3.25 million dollars.
Boys also reminded the Trustees that capital appropriation funds designated by the state of Ohio will remain in place and be available for the project at a future date.
“That money is not going anywhere,” Boys told the Board. “We will continue to look for additional resources and a more competitive bidding environment.”
In all, the state’s capital fund provided $3.25 million for the project in addition to approximately $700,000 SSCC received from the sale of the former South Campus location at Fincastle in Brown County.
Adams County resident and SSCC Trustee Mike Pell reaffirmed the Board’s commitment to building the campus. “We’ve already made a significant investment in purchasing 15 acres and architecture services for this shovel-ready project,” Pell said. “We still believe in this project and commit to revisiting it in 2019.”
When completed, the satellite campus will be located at the northeast corner of State Rte. 125 and Lloyd Road adjacent to the Adams County Ohio Valley School District administrative office and the Career and Technical Center.
In 2017 Pell told the Defender he was committed to providing county residents better access to post-secondary education.
“The key to our future is education,” he said. “Southern State has been serving Adams County for a long time, and we’re ready to bring in bricks and mortar to compliment that tradition.”
Pell said the rising costs of construction were a major factor in the Board’s decision to delay construction.
According to Design Cost Data (DCD), a cost estimating magazine for design and construction businesses, “the cost of goods used in construction jumped in April 2018 at the fastest year-over-year rate since 2011”.
The magazine reported that data collected by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department indicated “ongoing increases for a wide range of building materials, including many that are subject to proposed tariffs, that could drive prices still higher and cause scarcities”.
Adams County Ohio Valley Local School District Superintendent Richard Seas was not discouraged by the temporary setback.
“Given the increased cost of construction for the Southern State Adams County Campus, my hope is that the leadership of Southern State and ACOVSD can meet to discuss programs and the facility being built by Southern State Community College,” Seas said in an email to the Defender on Monday. “Southern State Community College being present in Adams County and offering job ready programs can be a great boost to the local economy. A skilled, certified workforce is attractive for any business that would like to make Adams County its home.”
Earlier at the Board’s Finance Committee meeting, Jim Buck, Vice President of Business and Finance, advised the Board of the financial impact of an additional eight percent decline in the college’s enrollment.
“The robust economy and the low unemployment rate across the country continue to negatively affect enrollment in the nation’s community colleges,” Buck sai., “Even after a half million dollars in personnel reduction this summer, the current deficit in this year’s budget is at least $370,000 due to the enrollment decline.”
Despite the overall decline in enrollment, a simple table indicated high school students taking advantage of the college’s on-line course offerings through College Credit Plus grew nearly 20 percent.
“We’re in extremely challenging times right now and the demographics of our region don’t seem to point to any relief,” Boys said. “All of us celebrate the robust economy, however, community colleges run counter-cyclical to the economy, so it’s simply not a good time for us.”