Nashua’s community college undergoing big changes

The Nashua campus of the New Hampshire Community Technical College is going through an evolution, transforming both physically, with the construction of a new wellness center and student union, and academically, with a growing student enrollment and expanded course offerings.

Lucille Jordan, the college’s president for the past decade, has witnessed the growth herself, coming on board when there were only about 450 students attending the school.

“We’re now up to almost 2,000 students,” Jordan said, as she gave a tour of the new wellness center, which began construction in the spring and is scheduled to open in February.

The $7.3 million project, which includes some work on the existing main building, is being paid for entirely through student fees, approved by the student senate in 2005. The college’s last project was a new library that opened in 2000.

“So we’re long overdue,” she said.

For the wellness center, the school received a 20-year bond from the state, Burnham said. Students are paying $13 a semester in fees to pay for the project, he said.

The 40,000-square-foot building has large windows, allowing for lots of natural light. It will house a new cafeteria, complete with a fireplace, workout rooms for Nautilus and exercise equipment, meeting spaces, and a full-size gymnasium with a wrap-around track on the second floor.

The new building will create a courtyard space between the back of the school and the entrance to the wellness center. The building is even energy friendly, going beyond the state’s energy efficiency guidelines, said Scott Bienvenue, maintenance engineer.

Having a gym means the school will be developing a basketball and volleyball team and will be hiring an athletic director, said Jordan. Up until now, the school has only had a partial athletics program, focusing on intramurals.

“We’re really trying to provide that complete student experience,” said Jordan. “It is a community college, but students need to feel that connection.”

Pat Goodman, vice president of student services, said that while the student population is growing, it’s also getting younger. The average student age has dropped to 22 years old.

“We have a young a student population,” she said. “They’re always looking for activities.”

The new gymnasium is still without bleachers or flooring. But when it’s finished, it will seat as many as 1,400 people. The gym and wellness center will also be used as a community center, Jordan said. The college has already signed up to host the annual PACT (Parents and Children Together) Conference for middle-school students and their parents.

This likely won’t be the end of the college’s expansion, either. Jordan said the school received $500,000 from the state to design a new science, technology and health center, which would be added on to the rear of the wellness center. That building would probably cost about $9 million to build, she said, and would be funded by the state.

Jordan said that with the rapid growth, the college has been tight on space. The nursing program is housed off campus and some of the professors don’t have enough office space, she said.

The Nashua campus, which covers 66 acres, is one of seven community college centers in the state, all of which are also undergoing name changes, as well.