Fort Bliss gets EPCC branch: Campus could open on post by fall 2015
Mar 27, 2012 (El Paso Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Soldiers, their families and others in the El Paso community will be able to earn a college degree without ever leaving Fort Bliss.
El Paso Community College and the U.S. Army announced Monday that the local community college district will build a satellite campus on post that could open as early as fall 2015.
It will sit on 250 acres and be built near the new Beaumont Army Medical Center being constructed just south of Loop 375 and Spur 601 on East Bliss.
It is being called the largest and most modern campus that will be on any military installation in the country.
EPCC interim President Ernie Roberts II said it will include a partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso, New Mexico State University and a handful of other universities, such as Park, Webster and Troy.
Once students finish a two-year degree, they can transfer to one of those other partner universities and complete a bachelor's, master's or even a doctorate degree at the same site, Roberts said.
He described the new campus as being a "one-stop educational shop."
It will be open to soldiers, their families and anyone else in the El Paso community who would like to attend it. It will be EPCC's sixth campus.
Roberts said he has no way of estimating how much the new campus will cost to build. Once a master plan is done in the next 9-12 months, all the players will have a better idea of costs associated with the project, he added.
Construction could begin within a year and take another 18-24
months to complete, Roberts said.
Plans call for the Fort Bliss campus to have 3,000 to 5,000 students when it first opens and for it to eventually eclipse the Valle Verde campus as the college's largest, Roberts said. The Valle Verde campus has about 12,000 students.
EPCC has been working toward this partnership for 4A years, Roberts said.
"I'm glad the announcement came on March 26, which is my birthday," Roberts said. "I couldn't ask for a better birthday present."
The post's Education Center and library will be housed at the campus, too, said Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. The Education Center is currently in a 19th-century building once used as a stable, he said.
"That's really exciting," he said.
The partnership will also ensure that Fort Bliss continues to have a library in the face of budget cuts, Pittard said. Other installations are losing their libraries or seeing them reduced, he said.
"That's huge," Pittard said.
El Paso Community College was picked to build the satellite campus after a yearlong competitive process, Pittard added.
The campus will help soldiers further their educations, advance their military careers and give them opportunities when they leave the service, Pittard said.
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, said the new campus will feature a partnership between EPCC and UTEP and give students greater flexibility in pursuing their educational goals.
It will also spur other military installations across the country to pursue similar partnerships and build this type of campus, too, Reyes said.
"It's a perfect fit," Reyes said.
State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said community colleges are uniquely situated to "serve as the building blocks" for higher education. Students can earn an associate's degree there, take the skills they learn and go out in the job market or transfer to a four-year school, he said.
"This is exactly what President (Barack) Obama was talking about in his State of the Union address," Rodriguez said.
Roberts said he would like the new campus to take advantage of its proximity to the new Beaumont hospital that will open in 2016, and partner with it to help train students studying in health-related fields.
David Burge may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6126.
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