Paducah has added an important new asset to its higher education resume with the opening of Murray State University's regional campus here last week. The roughly $10 million facility just off I-24 was unveiled to the public at a ribbon cutting Tuesday.
The gleaming 43,000-square foot building forms another cornerstone in a growing higher education corridor along I-24 and Blandville Road that includes West Kentucky Community and Technical College, the UK College of Engineering (in which MSU and WKCTC are full partners), The Emerging Technology Center, The Allied Health Services facility and the vocational/technical facility that was formerly home to Western Kentucky Technical College.
(And lest we forget, Mid-Continent University also offers growing higher education opportunities in Paducah, although not located in the corridor).
Murray State's regional campus is called the Crisp Center in honor of businessman and philanthropist Harry Crisp, whose donations years ago helped lay the groundwork for the new facility. Plans call for the Paducah campus to offer third- and fourth-year degree programs closely tailored to needs of the local economy, in such fields as health physics, transportation and river studies. The building boasts nine general-purpose classrooms, five more classrooms equipped for interactive instruction and office space for adjunct and full-time professors.
The 18-month project is the fruit of a cooperative effort by the MSU regents, Paducah Economic Development, and the city and county. MSU, the city and county will share the cost of retiring 20-year bonds that were issued to finance construction. The county will provide up to $325,000 a year, MSU $290,000 and the city $125,000 to service the debt.
The regional campus, much like the rest of Paducah's growing higher education community, is geared toward non-traditional students - working students who lack the time and resources to attend a traditional residential college; and older workers who need to complete their degree or add to their qualifications because of changing skill requirements in today's economy.
The new regional campus did not come without controversy. Some supporters of MSU's main campus in Murray have long been concerned about expansions by the university that could potentially reduce the number of traditional students who come to live and learn in their town. We respect that. Murray State University is a wonderful asset for the Murray community and is by far that city's largest economic engine. No one should be surprised that members of that community fiercely protect it.
However we believe time will demonstrate that the Paducah campus will not have a material impact on enrollment of traditional students on the Murray campus; rather, it will strengthen the university as a whole by tapping into a new market and new revenue sources from a segment of students MSU could not enroll any other way.
It is also a part of the university's mission as the regional university for this part of the state to provide outreach such as this to people in outlying communities who, but for regional campuses such as this, would have no access to MSU's offerings.
Paducah is grateful to the MSU administrators, regents and supporters who worked so hard to make the regional campus here happen. We believe the university and this community will see great benefits from this cooperative effort in the years ahead.