Patrick announces funds for state college building projects

Governor Deval Patrick kicked off a week-long round of appearances at state college campuses today and announced hundreds of millions in funding for higher education building projects.

The money, drawn from a four-year-old, $2.2 billion bond initiative, includes $607 million for the University of Massachusetts system and $20.7 million for Roxbury Community College. Patrick visited UMass Boston and RCC today.

“Providing access to quality, affordable higher education is about giving all of our students the opportunity to succeed,” Patrick said in a statement. “Education is Massachusetts’ calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the global economy. ... It is the single most important investment government can make in our collective future.”

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The governor’s choice of RCC—where state and federal regulators are investigating a panoply of management issues—as the starting place for his series of appearances was intentional, said Secretary of Education Paul Reville.

“Obviously, given the current events at Roxbury, this is a show of continuing confidence that this administration has in that campus and its ability to map out a positive future,” he said. “I think the governor particularly wanted to underline the fact that we were making that investment.”

The $20.7 million is the same sum RCC previously publicized as supporting a plan to build a life sciences center. However, only $470,000 of it is being used for a feasibility study supporting that project, which is being conducted through the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management. The bulk of RCC’s funding will instead go to renovations of existing classroom spaces and other upgrades for two campus buildings dedicated to academics and media arts, Reville said.

Science and technology proposals have nonetheless been a major priority for both the administration and the state’s public colleges during discussions of what to fund, Reville added.

For instance, a large chunk of the UMass money—$85 million—will support a new physical sciences building at the Amherst campus.

Meanwhile, the Lowell branch will get support for a $35 million building attached to its Manning School of Business, and UMass Boston will receive funding toward a $100 million classroom building needed to help it keep pace with increasing enrollment.

Funding from the bond initiative will continue to be distributed in the future—the bill has a 10-year lifespan.

Patrick is expected to make two more announcements Wednesday, at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner and MassBay Community College in Framingham. Further funds for the state’s other colleges will be parcelled out over the next week, culminating in an Oct. 9 announcement revealing the remainder of all capital funding projects across the state.

Other state officials are also starting a full-court press this week to promote public higher education.

UMass President Robert Caret launched a four-day, statewide bus tour Monday to mark the system’s 150th anniversary. And the Department of Higher Education’s “Go Public” campaign—intended to appeal to potential in-state applicants while encouraging them to bone up on math and science during high school—begins Wednesday.

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