Gloucester County College held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday morning for a $6 million expansion to its student services building.
A 20,345-square-foot addition will be put on the existing 16,300-square-foot building. The two-story addition includes six classrooms and will house the new Center for College and Career Readiness program for high school students.
Work began April 7 and is scheduled to be complete in October 2015.
"The vision aspect of this was 'How can we better prepare and solidify the relationship to the high schools that send students to this county college?' " Frederick Keating, the college's president, said during the ceremony.
Local school district superintendents helped develop the new center, he said, which will provide a central place for the college readiness and career services programs.
"How do I enroll? I need a road map, I need an understanding, I need financial aid, I need advisement, I need counseling, I need an understanding of how to work this thing called higher education, because it's more challenging today than in the history of our society," Keating said.
Arthur J. Ogren Inc. of Vineland is the contractor. The $6,149,208 project is funded in large part by a $4,386,906 grant from the state, part of a $750 million "Building Our Future" bond referendum approved by voters in 2012.
That bond act will help fund three other projects at the college: an $8.6 million grant for a new Nursing and Allied Health Center, a $1.5 million grant for an expansion to the existing Law and Justice Education Center, and $500,000 to repurpose the existing nursing center into a Business and Corporate Center.
The school is receiving a $4 million grant from a related fund, for a new building for the Adult Center for Transition.
Freeholder Director Robert M. Damminger lauded the student services expansion, describing it as solidifying the community college's mission. He noted that Gloucester County College will change its name in July, becoming Rowan College at Gloucester County as part of a new partnership with Rowan University.
"But with all those changes afoot, the core mission of this community college is to provide the most affordable and accessible higher education to our residents," said Damminger, who last week brought his daughter to the college to enroll. "Through expanding this building and adding space for high school students to begin their career readiness, we are enforcing the mission of GCC and strengthening its future."
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who preceded Damminger as county freeholder director, noted that between Rowan University and GCC, the county had received one of the highest total awards from the state higher education funds.
Rowan received $118 million, second only to Rutgers, which received $357 million across its campuses.
"When we did this bond act, some counties went in a little bit. This county went all-in. Which meant an investment - a serious investment from the county," Sweeney said. "So what you're doing is seeing the re-creation of higher education right here in this little campus."
Sweeney also thanked Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), whom he began referring to as "Congressman," smiling as he corrected himself.
"And if it wasn't for Congressm- - I want to say Congressman - if it wasn't for my senator, whose district we are in, I don't think we would have been as successful," Sweeney said.
Norcross is running to replace U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews, Democrat, in New Jersey's First Congressional District, which includes both GCC and Rowan University.
"What they've done here at Gloucester County College, soon to be Rowan at Gloucester County, is a continuum of education for our students," Norcross said. "Not only will they take them as they come out of high school and go through more the traditional role, but it's later in life, as your educational needs change, you come back here and continue that."