AUBURN — The face of Central Maine Community College is about to change, thanks to a new, four-story building about to go up.

“I’m excited,” CMCC President Scott Knapp said during an interview Thursday. “It will allow us to do new and innovative things.”

A groundbreaking ceremony to be held Friday, Oct. 17, will kick off construction of the building, which, Knapp said, will identify the campus.

CMCC is developing a new official seal used on documents such as transcripts. The four-story, modern building will be on that seal. “It’s going to be our signature look,” Knapp said. “It will be what you see when you drive on the campus. It’s going to change the whole complexion of the college. It will be the dominant feature.”

It will be built in front of Jalbert Hall and will house nine large classrooms, a new entrance and main administrative offices, such as reception and admissions.

Plans call for the building to open in the fall of 2015. “We have a very aggressive schedule,” Knapp said.

The building will cost $7 million, far more than approved by voters in a 2013 bond for the Maine Community College System. That bond allocated $2.3 million to the Auburn campus.

The remaining $4.7 million will come from fundraising by CMCC and a savings account. “We’ve been saving for the building for a while,” Knapp said.

The academic building will hold between 250 and 300 students in state-of-the-art classrooms designed to hold more students, between 45 and 60, than typical classrooms. Two will be amphitheater style with desks on three tiers that circle the instructor. Those classrooms will be used by social science and business students.

“It allows us to give more efficient instruction,” Knapp said. Lots of existing classrooms were originally designed for 10 to 15 students. “Today, you want to stretch every dollar,” Knapp said. The classrooms are geared toward interaction between the instructor and students, allowing a close proximity. “You can’t sit in the back row and get lost.”

Other classrooms will be loaded with technology, such as interactive smart boards and other kinds of computers. Students will be able to work in groups on a screen, then the class can see and discuss that work on a larger screen.

Another new classroom will be for organic chemistry, a course that CMCC can’t offer now, and one that’s important for beginning medical students. Students going into dentistry, pharmacy or physical therapy have to take organic chemistry in their first two years. “Not offering it was holding us back,” Knapp said.

Still another classroom will be used for public speaking. It’s designed so students will be videoed while giving speeches. The video can then be reviewed by the instructor and the student.

The new building also will offer general class space that will free rooms near the precision machine program, “which has been growing by leaps and bounds,” Knapp said.

Overall, the new building will expand offerings, such as a new program in life sciences, and will allow 300 more students to enroll each year. The building also will allow the college to improve the quality of instruction, Knapp said.

The general contractor for the building is Langford and Low of Portland. The architecture firm is Harriman of Auburn.

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CMCC growing while USM is shrinking

AUBURN — As Central Maine Community College celebrates expansion, the University of Southern Maine is shrinking.

During the past five years, CMCC, which offers mostly two-year degrees, has seen its enrollment grow from 2,500 to 3,200.

During the past four years, enrollment at USM, which includes Lewiston-Auburn College, has gone from 8,500 to 6,500. USM offers four-year and graduate degrees. Faced with a $16 million deficit, it is laying off professors and cutting and consolidating programs.

Reasons for fewer students, USM President David Flanagan has said, are the bad economy, a lower birth rate, which has reduced the number college-age students and more choices among colleges and universities.

CMCC President Scott Knapp credited getting more students to “offering the right programs relevant to the job market. We’re always increasing quality.” Programs are constantly changed to keep pace with the job market.

Another reason cited by students is cost.

Annual tuition for a full-time, in-state student at CMCC ranges from $3,500 to $4,000. The same costs $8,000 at USM. Neither cost includes student housing, fees or books.

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