Thanks to state funding and money from the college itself, the measures are expected to cost the county $11 million of that total, however, Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett said.
The improvements are the result of the college’s partnership with Kean University that allows students to start at OCC and wind up with a bachelor’s degree from Kean.
“This is going to be a major development for our community,” Freeholder Director Gerry Little said. “It will offer students an affordable baccalaureate degree for under $25,000 total.”
One ordinance, for $8.5 million, will fund a new access driveway on the west side of the campus from North Bay Avenue, parking lots, and stormwater basins that Bartlett said will be state of the art. The project also will result in the creation of a loop road around the entire campus, Bartlett said.
The new driveway from North Bay Avenue will go through property owned by Toms River, which has given the county its support, he said.
Of the $8.5 million, the county expects to bond for $8.075 million.
The second ordinance, for $10 million, is to build a new student center on the campus, officials said. However, Bartlett said, thanks to a state funding program and cooperation from OCC, the county will only be spending $2.5 million.
Under the state program, the state gives each community college a set amount of availability for state funding for certain types of work, Bartlett said. In OCC’s case, the state is making $10 million available. But there are time constraints on accepting the funding, Bartlett said, and time was running out for the county and for OCC.
“If Ocean County didn’t accept the money it would go elsewhere,” Bartlett said.
Under the Chapter 12 funding, the county issues the bonds, and the state pays half of the bond principal and interest, Bartlett said. In this instance that means the state will be paying roughly $5 million, Bartlett said. But the county also negotiated a deal with the college for the college to pick up half of the county’s $5 million share, so the end result is the county will be contributing just $2.5 million to the student center project, Bartlett said.
“It makes more sense for the county to do the bonding because we have the expertise,” Bartlett said. “And this way, the public is in control of what’s being borrowed.”
The partnership with Kean and the economic downturn have resulted in a growing student enrollment at OCC that Jon Larson, president of the college, put at 15,000. The current student center – built 40 years ago – is simply too small to accommodate that population, Bartlett said. So it will be torn down and a new student center will be built.
The total cost of that project is expected to be about $20 million, but Larson said the college will be contributing another $11 million from built-up reserves to pay for the building.
“I think all of us in the final analysis will say this is the best investment in our community,” Larson said. “Students at OCC can transfer seamlessly to Kean” and receive a bachelor’s degree in any of 15 majors, and plans are in the works to offer five master’s degree programs through the OCC-Kean partnership, Larson said.
The building, which will use geothermal heating and cooling, will be “one of the most fuel-efficient buildings ever,” Larson said.
The college is building a geothermal heating and cooling power plant on part of 40 acres on the west side of the campus that have already been cleared for the new construction. That plant, which will allow the college to come off the electrical grid, thus saving energy costs, is expected to be dedicated in October, Larson said.