June 23, 2011By Adam White
Ten times as many students are expected to attend Vermont Technical College this fall as there were in 2004. According to school officials, VTC’s Williston campus needs to expand to meet the needs of that booming population.
John Daniels, dean of administration for Vermont Technical College, outlined development plans for a parking area and new academic building at the Williston campus to the town’s Development Review Board at a meeting earlier this month. Meanwhile, construction is already underway to double the size of both the college’s library and its on-campus housing in Williston Hall.
“As we grow, we need to provide more services and better services,” Daniels said. “Our growth of students is up to 10 percent a year, and we need space for equipment, labs, classrooms and offices.
“Without space, we’re trapped. So we’re trying to be proactive.”
Enrollment at VTC’s Williston campus stood at approximately 50 students when the Randolph-based institution purchased a number of buildings it had been leasing in the vicinity of Taft Corners seven years ago. That number is expected to reach upward of 500 this fall, a number in line with VTC’s master plan of enrolling 800 students by the 2015-16 academic year.
“We’re very pleased with the growth we’ve experienced,” Daniels said.
The Williston Hall renovation – occurring on the second floor of the three-story, 18,000-square-foot building – will double its current housing capacity of 22 students. Though VTC is primarily a commuter school, Jean-Marie Clark, assistant to the dean at the Williston campus, said that fluctuation in fuel prices in recent years has led to increased interest in on-campus housing.
“Earlier this spring, when gas prices kept going up, I was worried that we weren’t going to have enough space for everybody,” Clark said.
Clark said that on-campus housing is also an attractive option to students in VTC’s dental hygiene program, which often necessitates a 7 a.m. start time.
“It’s a nice fit for them, because they don’t have to make such an early commute,” Clark said. “Plus, they can add it into their financial aid package.”
The expansion of the library – which Daniels admitted was previously “a little cubby hole” – is aimed in part at commuters who do not have a dorm room in which to study between classes. The renovation includes four enclosed work areas that will each contain a computer.
“Part of our job is to make this campus as comfortable as we can for students,” Clark said. “This will give students, especially commuters, a good place to get work done.”
Parking is a perpetual problem at VTC. Due to the high rate of commuters and the fact that facilities like the dental hygiene center offer services to the general public, the college’s current parking areas often overflow.
“There are certain days and times when parking gets pushed to the limit,” Clark said. “Helena Drive ends up getting used very frequently for parking.”
The new lot that Daniels proposed to the DRB would consist of 71 additional spaces, five handicapped spaces and the capacity for 14 bicycles. Michael Burke, an engineer working on the project, said that the required number of spaces for resident students increased from 22 to 46 in the past year, and the proposed expansion lot would accommodate VTC’s projected need of 264 spaces by the 2013-14 academic year.
“It is probably not wise to build right out to the last (available) parking space until you have somewhere else to go,” Burke said.
The proposed expansion would also include an additional building, approximately the same size as Williston Hall, which Daniels said could serve a number of purposes.
“It could be a residence hall, but it is more likely to be an academic building,” Daniels said. “It will depend on what we need the most at the time that it is completed.”
Daniels estimated that the proposed parking area could be completed within the next year or two, and the new building would be constructed afterward.