An investment in the future of northeastern Kentucky and the fulfillment of a dream, envisioned by the Kentucky General Assembly’s approval of the Higher Education Reform Act of 1997, were among the laudatory phrases repeated by several speakers on Monday.
Gov. Steve Beshear and members of the legislature from the FIVCO Area Development District spoke at Monday afternoon’s dedication of the new $35.8 million Technology Drive building of Ashland Community and Technical College at EastPark, the large industrial park that includes parts of Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties.
The structure is the second building dedicated on ACTC’s EastPark campus, and it brings the total investment on that campus to more than $50 million.
Beshear recalled that day in March 1997 when then-Gov. Paul Patton expressed his vision for higher education in Kentucky that included the separation of the community college from the University of Kentucky and the creation of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which in this region combined Ashland Community College and Ashland Area Vocational-Technical School to create ACTC.
As a result of that vision, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System now includes 16 colleges on 67 campuses and has an enrollment of more than 100,000, the governor said.
Some of those students are receiving the first two years of what become four-year bachelor degrees and others are receiving vocational and technical training to provide them with job skills, Beshear said, adding that more than 600 occupational training programs are offered at the state’s community and technical colleges.
Beshear said the 2010 General Assembly’s approval of House Bill 160, which assures undergraduate courses taught at the community and technical college align with courses taught at the four-year state universities, is a fulfillment of Patton’s vision of a seamless education by assuring credit hours received transfer to the state’s universities.
With the cost of a college education rapidly rising, Beshear said students and parents “ought to be able to know that they can graduate in four years.” HB 160 will enable students to save money by attending a community and technical college with the knowledge the credits they earn will count toward a four-year degree, enabling them to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, the governor said.
Because of the nationwide recession, the two-year budget he hopes the General Assembly will approve during a special session in May will be the seventh reduction in spending since he took office in 2007, Beshear said.
“My top priority in all these cuts is to preserve and protect our education system at all levels,” Beshear said. “Education must always be our first priority.”
After the governor spoke, Dr. Michael McCall, president of KCTCS, commended the governor for living up to that commitment. Despite tough economic times, the governor has “preserved and protected” education to assure that quality has not been sacrificed, said McCall, who has headed KCTCS since its creation 11 year ago.
During the 2 1/2 hour dedication ceremony, attended by about 250 in the large room that will serve as the building’s cafeteria, that room was named the Rocky Adkins Pavilion in honor of the 100th District state representative and House majority leader for his efforts in securing funding for the building.
A surprised and tearful Adkins said he was “completely humbled and honored” by that designation.
Adkins recalled the day in 1997 when he delivered a letter from Larry Addington in which the Addington family donated 1,000 acres for what became EastPark plus the right of way for the Northeast Kentucky Industrial Parkway, linking Interstate 64 and U.S. 23. More than 1,200 are employed in EastPark and ACTC’s EastPark campus will help attract hundreds of new jobs to the industrial park, he said.
Adkins said he is offended when others call things like the beautiful new building being dedicated a “project.”
“This is a project but it is much more than that,” Adkins said. “It is an investment in our people that will benefit this region for generations to come. It is a fulfillment of vision, hope and opportunity.”
State Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins, a veteran of 29 years in the General Assembly, said he was as proud of this building as anything he has done. He also credited two former legislators — former Sen. Charlie
Borders and former Rep. John Vincent — for playing key roles in securing funding for the EastPark building.
The fact that Vincent and Borders — both Republicans — joined area Democrats in working for the building is evidence of the bipartisanship exhibited by all area legislators on projects and legislation important to northeastern Kentucky.
State Sen. Robin Webb joined Adkins in calling the new building an investment instead of a project. She spoke of how her family has benefited from ACTC. A native of Grayson, Webb said she began her college studies at ACC before going on the earn her law degree. Her daughter entered Midway College with 18 hours of credit earned through ACTC, she said.
As a member of the House of Representatives for only 14 months, state Rep. Kevin Sinnette said he can take no credit for the new building, However, he commended his predecessor, John Vincent, for his years of supporting education on all levels and for helping secure funding for the building.
State Rep. Jill York, who succeeded Webb when she was elected to the Senate seat vacated by Borders, said the word transformation kept recurring in her thoughts as she listened to the comments.
“This campus will open doorways that will transform lives and create a better future for this region,” she said.
State Rep. Tanya Pullin said while the region has received its share of bad economic news in recent years with the loss of many jobs, the new EastPark campus is evidence “the region will not be slowed by this bad news but that we will continue to move forward.”
The new building has two chemistry labs and a biology lab, nine computer labs, a full-service library and a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Programs in electronic, industrial maintenance, machine tool and welding technology already are at the EastPark campus, and programs in applied process technology, air conditioning, computer-aided drafting and design, construction carpentry and culinary arts are being moved from ACTC’s Roberts Drive campus into the new EastPark building.
Programs in business administration, information technology, office systems technology and some transfer and general education courses are being moved from the College Drive campus to the EastPark campus.
“This will be a full-service campus,” said Greg Adkins, president and CEO of ACTC. “This is not just a campus for vocational and technical programs. Anything you need you will be able to get out here.”
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2649.