MELBOURNE — Students who are enrolled at Ozarka College in Melbourne will soon have a “one-stop-shop” to get answers to questions concerning their academic stance or to grab a quick bite to eat.
Officials ceremonially broke ground Sept. 18 on the college’s Student Services Center at the Melbourne campus, which is one of four campuses of Ozarka College and serves as the school’s main campus.
The 18,560-square-foot building will house student services, study areas, community meeting rooms, a video conferencing center, banquet space and a culinary learning lab.
Ozarka College President Richard Dawe said he looks forward to seeing the new building in action.
“The building will be open for business sometime during the 2014 fall semester,” Dawe said.
He said a facilities master-planning session last year revealed to college officials the need for a Student Services Center on the main campus.
“This building will have all of the [student] services combined into one [location],” he said. “[Before this building], all of the student services were on islands around the campus.”
Dawe said students had to cross roads to get to different aspects of student services, and there was a need for a contemporary, attractive student center.
Along with housing student services such as registration and advisement, the new building will feature a cafe where culinary students will have a setting to showcase the skills they are learning at Ozarka.
“It will be a very high-tech, expanded culinary student lab,” he said. “It’s going to be an amazing place. It will be an excellent opportunity for applied learning.”
Culinary students will get “real-world” experience by working in an operational kitchen, with customers.
“This is as contemporary or progressive as any facility like this that I’ve seen personally. It’s going to be an amazing addition,” Dawe said.
At just more than 18,500 square feet, the new center will be the largest building for the college to date, Dawe said.
The price tag for the building comes in at about $3 million.
To pay for the project, the Ozarka College Board of Trustees authorized the sale of $2.9 million in bonds to pay for the construction of the Student Services Center.
“To pay for the bonds, the citizens of Melbourne recently passed a sustained tax for the college,” Dawe said.
The 3/8-cent sales tax is the first tax in the state put in place for a college, Dawe said.
This is Dawe’s fifth year as president of Ozarka College, and he said the need for this building comes from the increased student population.
“We have the second-highest growth rate for two-year colleges,” he said.
The college is growing at a rate of 10.4 percent per year, Dawes said.
According to the college’s website, the college is one of the top-50 fastest-growing community colleges with less than 2,500 students in the nation.