The extended Paducah campus of Murray State is growing with the help of Paducah and McCracken County governments, approved by the Murray State Board of Regents in May.
Mark Welch, director of community relations, said the need for growth stems from the unreached potential student populations in the Paducah and McCracken County area.
“According to educational data from CPE (Council on Postsecondary Education) there is a lot of unmet need for degree programs in McCracken County,” Welch said.
There is a high demand for an extended campus in Paducah for the non-traditional students who do not have access to higher education.
Approximately 14,000 residents of McCracken County have college credits, but have not earned a college degree, Welch said.
The larger campus is intended to give those people a chance to go back to school, he said.
“The regional campuses are not built to serve the traditional-age student,” said Brian Van Horn, dean of continuing education and academic outreach. We’re serving the non-traditional student at the regional campus.”
Eighty-five percent of students attending the Crisp Center in Paducah are non-traditional, and are often balancing things that are maybe more important to them than a college education such as a family and full-time job, Van Horn said.
The Crisp Center does not have the resources Murray State needs in order to offer a larger variety of academic programs, he said.
“The new campus will certainly allow the University to expand the curriculum by providing us with additional resources, such as larger classrooms,” Van Horn said. “Last year there were some courses we couldn’t offer at the Crisp Center due to lack of resources.”
Murray State’s main campus will not likely see a change in the student population once the new extended campus is complete, Van Horn said.
“The students who commute from Paducah today will still commute from Paducah when the campus is complete,” Van Horn said. “It allows students to experience not only the academic part of college, but the social life part of college as well. I don’t have that in Paducah, nor am I trying replicate that.”
Without the social aspect of a traditional university, the goal for the regional McCracken County campus is to provide the best possible educational experience for students, he said.
For Murray State students attending the main campus, there is a possibility in the future for additional academic programs to be offered at the regional locations unavailable in Murray, Welch said.
Academic programs currently offered at the Crisp Center campus will be transferred over to the new location. Additional curriculum will depend on work force needs. A Murray State extended campus advisory board will be formed to decided those needs, Welch said.
McCracken County is issuing a $10 million bond toward the construction.
“The deal that was put together and passed by all the governmental bodies has funding coming from the city, the county and Murray State University,” President Randy Dunn said. “The county will be carrying the largest share of that and the university close to that amount and the city a smaller portion.”
The committees approached it not only as an educational initiative, but also something that would support economic development for the larger area, Dunn said.
“We worked for about five months with both civic and political leadership in Paducah to put together a financing deal that would provide us a source of revenue for a new regional campus in Paducah,” Dunn said. “I think all three groups in Paducah – City of Paducah, McCracken County as well as Paducah Economic Development – saw this not just as a means to improve educational attainment, but because education is important to show a certain attractiveness to an area and a quality of life was something that they felt would help in getting future companies and employers to locate there.”
The campus will be located in Barkley Woods along Interstate 24 in Paducah.
It is still unknown when construction for the campus will begin. The campus is at least two years away from opening its doors, Welch said.
The architectural design of the campus has yet to be decided.
Said Dunn: All of the design and development work will take place once the bonds are sold and we have that money available to hire an architect and conduct that work.”