RPCC breaks ground on new facility

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor
Officials pose for photos during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for River Parishes Community College. More photos and videos of the March 21 event are available online.

For the students and staff, Thursday's groundbreaking at the River Parishes Community College meant more than moving dirt.

The ceremony, March 1, signaled the first phase of construction, and the building of a dream – its own permanent facility.

Dr. Joe Ben Welch, RPCC Chancellor, introduced many of the state and local officials gathered at ground-breaking event. He said the ceremony marked the beginning of an expansion 13 years in the making.

"This is an exciting day," he said teary-eyed.

Stephen Smith, Chair of Facilities Corporation LCTCS Board of Supervisors, said the goal of the new facility is to provide training to make our state prosper.

"We're building facilities, but we're building communities as well," he said during the ceremony.

The new campus will be located at the Edenborne Development off Highway 44.

Phase 1 of construction includes an 81,000-square-foot facility for academic programming and administrative offices. It is expected to be completed by the spring of 2014.

Dr. Bill Martin, RPCC Executive Vice Chancellor, praised all who have been involved in the project, but especially the Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Dr. Joe May.

"Special thanks to Dr. May for working with legislators to get Act 391 passed," he said. "He did this during his first year on the job, which is a remarkable job in legislative history."

On Dec. 7, 2001, RPCC conferred its first associate degrees. The first graduating class consisted of seven graduates who earned four Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degrees and three Associate of General Studies degrees.

In 2010, the LTC-Ascension Campus merged with RPCC and became the River Parishes Community Colleg-Technical Education Center. For the first time in its history, the college provided technical programming.

Currently, RPCC serves more than 3,700 students with 80 percent of students are enrolled in academic transfer programs; the other 20 percent are enrolled in technical programs – an area which is expected to grow.

Dr. May said it's not enough for someone to graduate from high school and expect to get a good-paying job. He said more training is needed and that's what RPCC will provide.

"I've read in several articles in Louisiana recently where people with an associate's degree are making an average of 8.6 percent more than people with a bachelor's degree."