Nashville State quietly grows to 10K+ students, 3 campuses

Friday, April 5, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 14
By Joe Morris


1970: Nashville State Technical Institute opens

1974: NSCC joins Tennessee Board of Regents system

2002: State expands mission to comprehensive community college

2012: NSCC opens new campuses in Southeast Nashville and Clarksville

Everything old is new again at Nashville State Community College, which has repurposed part of the Hickory Hollow Mall into a thriving new campus even as it reconfigures space at its White Bridge Road main location and strengthens its new Clarksville satellite.

The new and redesigned facilities now serve a record-shattering 10,000-plus students, making it the fifth largest school in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.

And NSCC isn’t done, says President George Van Allen, noting that enrollment has been climbing with minimal publicity about the new facilities.

Professor Mary Elizabeth Wilson-Patton goes over homework assignments with Marleen Younan in an English class at Nashville State Community College.

-- Leigh Singleton | Nashville Ledger

“We made the leap over the 10,000 barrier during spring enrollment, which was odd since fall is usually higher,” Van Allen says. “The reason for the increase is enrollment at the Southeast campus. We had a rather abrupt opening, without a lot of time to introduce the campus to the public, but as more people have heard about it we’ve continued to grow at that location.”

The Southeast campus, opened in August 2012, is in the former Dillard’s store at the mall. The state was able to buy the 200,000-square-foot site for around $3 million and has spent $7.3 million and $5.2 million on the first and second phases, respectively, of renovation.

That work had an aggressive timeline, with demolition and renovation done within a nine-month window, hence the lack of large-scale opening ceremonies.

“We didn’t want to talk about it much because we weren’t even sure we should be enrolling students until we got into the last three months of construction and realized we were going to make our opening date,” Van Allen says. “Then we got the word out and began transferring students in and getting new ones registered.”

Initial programs at the Southeast campus include most of those that any college student would take in his first two years: English, math and science. The idea is that students who wish to transfer to a four-year institution can then do so.

Nashville State is now beginning work on Phase II of the facility, which will finish out the downstairs, and also begin Phase III work on the upstairs portion of the building, to incorporate some of its two-year offerings as well.

The Southeast campus of Nashville State Community College is located in the former Dillard’s department store building at what used to be Hickory Hollow Mall in the Antioch area.

“We’re going to add some tech programs, most notably our Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts and our pre-nursing program,” Van Allen says. “We believe those two programs alone will add another 150 to 200 students.”

Those programs will come online in August 2013. The culinary arts program will leave behind White Bridge facilities that have become outmoded, and those will be renovated into a new use. In addition, the college also is continuing to add to its Clarksville space, all the while eyeing changes in Southeast Nashville.

“We think we’ll need to do something about space at the Southeast campus within two years, because we’re going to outgrow what we have,” Van Allen says. “We are an economical option; about half (the cost) of a four-year university and our credits are just as valuable toward any four-year degree.”

Even though it’s a community college, Nashville State began as a technical institute and continues to offer a full roster of technical programs. Those translate to jobs, Van Allen says.

“Students come here for our information technology and engineering programs,” he says. “They become highly employable, even during a recession. That’s why we are rapidly growing. In 20 years we’re grown to more than twice the size we were, and even though some of that was because we became a community college, a lot of it is because our graduates get jobs. It’s as simple as that.”

Simple indeed, but it’s a point that Metro Nashville Councilmember Jacobia Dowell, who represents the 32nd district where the Southeast campus is located, says she fully agrees with. She says that the area needs qualified workers, and that her district’s population is poised to take full advantage of their new educational asset.

A student lounge area is part of the 200,000-square-foot Southeast campus of Nashville State. Other campuses are located on White Bridge Road and in Clarksville.

-- Leigh Singleton | Nashville Ledger

“The Nashville State Community College (NSCC) satellite campus in the Antioch community means many more students now have convenient access to higher education,” Dowell says. “A significant amount of students who live in the Antioch community or within the 37013 zip code were already attending NSCC.

“Many of these students were spending sometimes over an hour commuting to the White Bridge Road campus during peak traffic times.

“Additionally, Antioch has three high schools within a short distance of the new campus. Students attending these high schools now have the opportunity to participate in dual enrollment programs to earn college credit in the community.

“Participating in this type of program would have been out of reach for some of these students if they had to commute outside the area.”

The campus acts as an incentive, she says, for employers looking at relocation or expansion in the area.

“NSCC will ensure that our community will have easy access to continue to grow a talented pool of employable people ready to meet business demands,” she says. “The community and local businesses are already experiencing the impact.

“We have added several new businesses. During the day, you see more people walking, enjoying lunch at the local restaurants and crowded in the neighborhood, in Starbucks preparing for exams.

“NSCC is creating the additional day crowd or traffic that we need in the area to ensure businesses have a steady flow of customers throughout the day.”

Students will likely create their own storefronts as well, she predicts.

“The younger generations tend to have the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “If the business opportunities don’t materialize quickly enough, I have the confidence that they will create them.”