Columbia State has big plans for Franklin

Friday, April 5, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 14
By Tony Troiano

Columbia State, a Tennessee Board of Regents school, has plans to expand in Williamson County but is waiting on final budget approval.

-- Photo Courtesy Of Josh Bennett And Columbia State

Columbia State has had a presence in Williamson County for 42 years, providing classes at Franklin High School, banks, churches and even the police department.

The two-year community college found a permanent Williamson location in 1989 at a vocational tech building, but a growing student body put expansion on the fast track, even with retrofitting of that facility.

By 2000, the Tennessee Board of Regents had agreed that a new facility was needed, and by 2011, land had been purchased. But when 2012 rolled around, the building of the new campus hit a revenue snag.

“We’re excited about the new Williamson County campus,” says Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan. “It will provide increased access to quality higher education in the area and serve a growing population.

“We wish it had been included in the budget recommendation for this year, and we hope the legislature will continue to give it consideration. The good news is that it will likely be high on the list for funding next year.”

Columbia State has multiple campuses in five counties. The main central location is in Columbia (Maury County), with other facilities in Lawrenceburg (Lawrence County), Lewisburg (Marshall County), and Clifton (Wayne County), and in Franklin.

“Williamson County is committed to higher education,” says Columbia State President Janet Smith. “We are fortunate and grateful to have strong supporters. It is imperative to have a new campus in Williamson to provide additional higher education opportunities and facilities to meet student needs and prepare them for the future.”

The state is providing $32.8 million and the college must kick in $4 million. Fundraising is ongoing, and the school is working with local business, industry and individuals.

A new facility request was submitted for state backing in 2000 as the result of the college’s strategic and master planning process. The request was accepted by the Board of Regents and the facility was placed on the higher education capital outlay list for financing.

In 2011, 36 acres on Liberty Pike in Cool Springs were purchased. The new campus will be in the middle of an expansive development area and is less than a mile from the soon-to-be completed Vanderbilt Medical Center.

The state budget in 2012 gave Columbia the authority to begin design of the new layout with the intent of budgeting construction in 2013, however due to revenue shortfalls, the building was not included.

The campus design has been completed which includes general site location and preparation, building appearance and features, and floor plans.

Smith says the campus will be built in three phases:

The first phase will have three buildings that will house math and science, arts and humanities and an administration and student center.

The second will be a health sciences building.

The third will be determined by growth and future needs. When the first phase is complete 2,000 to 2,200 students are expected to be enrolled. Upon total build-out the number of students is projected at 6,100.

Columbia will also be partnering with four-year institutions to provide baccalaureate and Master’s degree opportunities.

“Columbia State’s new campus is a great development engine for our community when you consider housing, transit options and job creation,” says Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, who is also chairman of the Columbia State Foundation. “This only enhances a strong relationship. It is unique for a college to build an entire new campus and we look forward to it coming to fruition.”

“We have collaborated with Williamson County business and community leadership to provide programs of study that ensure our graduates are ready for the challenges of the business sector,” Smith says. “The partnership between Columbia State and Williamson County has always been, and will always be, positive.”