As East Mississippi Community College continues to grapple with declining enrollment and financial issues, construction on a new residence hall is underway on the college’s Scooba campus.
The $11.5 million, 148-bed dormitory will house male students initially, and is under construction on the site of the school’s former Sullivan-Windham Field.
The project is funded by $5.5 million from capital improvement funds allocated by the state to Mississippi’s colleges and a $6 million local bond issued by EMCC to make up the difference.
EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks said the condition and age of the men’s housing on the Scooba campus was a driving factor in the decision to build the hall.
“They’re really, really, really old,” Alsobrooks said. “We actually put together this bond package with state bond money a couple years back, and we had bid it out, and it came in over bid. We had to re-bid it. We had some administrative stuff going on that drug it out longer than we would’ve wanted, but the bond money was available for doing this through the state a while back.”
He said after the project came in over bid the first time, it was scaled down.
“Prices of things were going up, and it just got caught in one of those cycles, caught them off-guard and again, went way over, so we had to back down and distill the project to meet our budget,” Alsobrooks said.
EMCC has seen a 5% drop in enrollment system-wide, with a 10th day headcount of 3,882 students this year. Last year, the headcount was 4,086. Many other Mississippi community colleges are experiencing similar declines in enrollment.
EMCC has also been dealing with other financial issues including $710,000 in its general operating balance, which contained $10 million approximately a decade ago.
He said the poor quality of the men’s dorms in Scooba were a common complaint for students, and that the buildings were nearing the end of their useful lives. Plans are also in place to eventually demolish Lauderdale Hall and renovate Noxubee Hall
“We just want to be able to provide decent quality housing for the students, plus those older buildings are so inefficient, so from an energy standpoint, replacing some old buildings insulated properly, with modern utilities will save us money on the operating side,” Alsobrooks said.
He also spoke to the potential of the new dorm to attract more students to the Scooba campus.
“If housing’s one of their decision factors, then we’re liable to come up on the short end,” Alsobrooks said.
Currently, 584 dorm beds are available for students at Scooba, with approximately 933 students attending the campus.
The dorm will be divided into two wings separated by a lobby. While it will initially be an all-male residence hall, the building was designed to allow for limited access, should the need for a wing to house female students arise. Most of the rooms will accommodate two students, but a few rooms are sole occupancy and designed to be ADA compliant.
The former concession and ticket building nearby will be converted to a laundromat and entertainment area.
Century Construction is the project contractor, and LPK Architects P.A. is the project architect. The project is scheduled to be complete in August of 2020.