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Fast-growing Butler community college to get its own space

| Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

Butler County Community College is expanding its fast-growing campus in Mercer County.

BC3, as the college is known, has been leasing the bottom floor of an 8,000-square-foot commercial building in Hermitage for the last five years. But now, officials there plan to expand the facility to more than twice its current size and build new laboratories for pre-nursing, criminology and other specialty courses.

"This is needed to meet our increased in enrollment projections," school spokeswoman Susan Changnon said.

When completed, the building will encompass 20,000 square feet. Construction is expected to last about a year and cost about $3.4 million. A groundbreaking is scheduled for April 28.

The college started offering classes in Mercer County in 1997-98 at Mercer High School. At that time, it had 50 students. Eventually, enrollment grew, and the college began offering classes at Hickory High School and the Mercer County Vo-Tech school.

The college moved into the LindenPointe Business Park in Hermitage during the 2005-06 school year and today has an enrollment of about 300 students. College officials anticipate having as many as 500 students by Jan. 15, 2011, when the expansion is slated to be finished.

Last month, the Butler County Commission granted a $3 million tax exemption to the Butler County Community College Education Foundation, the school's fundraising arm, paving the way for the project, foundation president Ruth Purcell said.

The city of Hermitage's Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners each approved the construction plans in September. Hermitage also donated 3 acres near the building for student parking, Purcell said.

Changnon said the college plans to hold classes at the current location in the spring while construction is under way. Students taking summer classes customarily offered at the Mercer County campus will be referred to the college's Lawrence Crossing branch in Lawrence County.

In-county residents pay $79 per credit, plus $20 in fees. Out-of-county residents pay $158 plus $20 in fees.

Thomas J. Keller Architects of Canfield, Ohio, is designing the project. Rien Construction Co. of Brookfield, Ohio, was hired to build the facility.

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