Although final details need to be ironed out and approved by the college's trustees at their board meeting on Wednesday, plans are for MCC to occupy the upper level of the Community Center beginning Aug. 6. They plan to move to the lower level early next year.
The North Ottawa County Council on Aging, which currently leases the Community Center's lower level, is slated to move its operations to a strip mall at the southwest corner of Beacon Boulevard and Taylor Avenue (see related story).
MCC will lease the space from the city for $60,000 per year, plus 21 percent of the cost for utilities and $800 per month for custodial fees, according to City Manager Pat McGinnis.
McGinnis said attracting an institution of higher learning has been a long-term goal of local and regional leaders.
“There's been a great deal of discussion that higher education is important in downtowns to get that youth component and vitality,” he said. “Kids use local services, local businesses. They hit the library.”
McGinnis said the Community Center is ideal for the college.
“That building sort of has a campus-like setting with a park across the street and the library next door,” he explained. “It's a nice complement to a very nice district we have going there. It will be very fresh to see college kids with backpacks in Central Park reading a book or tablet or laptop.”
McGinnis said a community college is a good post-secondary starting point for students.
“It can give people some great life skills to be very successful employees right here at home,” he said. “The potential is so huge. Maybe we'll see Ferris, Western Michigan or Grand Valley want to snatch a little piece of real estate. Right now, we have to send our kids packing to go to college. It will be nice to see something local.”
MCC has offered classes at Grand Haven High School for several years, but the new facility will offer full student services — including enrollment and counseling.
“This new facility is the next logical step to meeting growing needs in the area,” said Dr. Dale Nesbary, the college's president. “Of all the places we considered over the past two years, the location within the Grand Haven Community Center complex is best suited to meeting student and community needs. We're now able to provide more daytime classes and a variety of student services.”
The college will continue offering evening classes at Grand Haven High School and Spring Lake Middle School.
MCC officials said the college's Ottawa County enrollment tripled last year.
West Olive resident Nealon Bradley, a 2010 Grand Haven High School graduate, is taking classes at the Muskegon campus and plans to take classes in Grand Haven this winter.
“It's going to be good to have a close place, especially with gas prices,” said Bradley, who estimates he spends $50 a week in fuel commuting to Muskegon. “Some days I'll spend zero bucks because I can bike back and forth. It's going to be especially nice ... in the winter when the roads aren't very good.”
Eli Fox, a 2005 Grand Haven High School graduate, works as the college's enrollment services representative. She'll share time between the Muskegon campus and Grand Haven center.
“I'm so excited to have a downtown center for Ottawa County students to take classes,” she said.
MCC Director of Community Relations Tina Dee said the Grand Haven center would eventually house four to five classrooms with a 19-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
“Students will get a lot more individualized attention than they would at a large school,” she said. “Our curriculum is intended to provide a portal, an entry point for people to start their academic progress with us.”
The Community Center campus will offer enrollment and other services from noon to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, beginning Aug. 6. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 27.
Call 866-711-4622 or visit muskegoncc.edu/ottawa for information.