After a year of construction, site work and renovation, Murray State’s Paducah, Ky., regional campus opened the doors of its new facility to students Monday.
Since 1998 and until the new building opened, Murray State hosted its Paducah regional students in the Crisp Regional Higher Education Center.
The new 43,000 square foot, $10 million facility dubbed the Crisp Center welcomed approximately 1,400 returning and new students.
Brendon Cook, senior from Murphysboro, Ill., is taking a half-semester class at the Crisp Center with three other students from Murray State’s main campus.
Cook decided to take the Paducah course because he thought it would be an interesting experience to learn with more non-traditional students.
“The building itself is constructed with a very ‘green’ sense of engineering, which I thought was pretty cool,” Cook said.
Brian Van Horn, dean of Continuing Education, said the facility was necessary to better host the University’s large Paducah student population. At the former campus, classes were moved outside for a lack of educational space.
Apart from more room, Van Horn said, the goal of the new regional campus building was to provide students with a broader range of degree offerings to help students become more competitive.
He said the campus will continue to cater to primarily non-traditional students.
“Continuing education really is difficult for some students we see because they might work two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet,” Van Horn said at the Crisp Center opening.
The average student enrolled at the Crisp Center are between the ages of 30 and 35 and work at least one part-time job. The students are also primarily female, Van Horn said.
“The regional campuses by mission and design are offered and built to make access to a Murray State education possible for those who can’t travel or move to Murray,” He said. “A new campus in Paducah will provide more access to non-traditional students and students who are not able to attend Murray State University in Murray.”
Van Horn said he hopes the new facility will help foster a stronger relationship between Murray State and West Kentucky Community and Technical College, which is located across I-24, opposite of the newly completed facility.
Jay Morgan, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the new facility’s first semester will be a “soft opening,” meaning all the courses currently offered at the Paducah regional campus will simply be transferred and offered at the new facility. However, he said, new courses will be offered this semester in areas such as management, education, engineering and communication.
In the fall, Morgan said the University will focus on increasing enrollment.
“We’ll be ramping up our advertising in McCracken County and focus on recruitment in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri,” he said. “McCracken County has a very large population base and we feel like would be a nice growth area for us.”
Morgan said the University hopes enrollment increases by 200 students in the spring and that in five years it will be at least 2,000.
He said Murray’s regional campuses are designed to be the nuts and bolts of education and while they won’t offer sororities, fraternities or other clubs and organizations, they continue to provide the same quality education students receive at Murray State’s main campus.
“What Murray state is doing in Paducah and the other regional campuses is we’re building a workforce for tomorrow which should help bring business in to our area,” Morgan said.
Interim President Tim Miller invited Board of Regents member Susan Guess to speak before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Guess lives in Paducah and is the senior vice president and marketing director at Paducah Bank.
Miller noted Guess’ intense energy and dedication to the Paducah campus.
“Today we begin a new era in higher education in Paducah,” Guess said. “Today we give students all across this region an opportunity that did not exist before this moment.”