Cal U. plans to build new science building

Karen Mansfield

California University of Pennsylvania officials reviewed a capital projects spending plan, which includes the construction of a $37 million science building and an addition at Keystone Hall, with the university’s Council of Trustees at the quarterly trustees meeting Wednesday.

The university plans to break ground on the science building as early as 2020, with renovation and a 25,000-square-foot addition at Keystone Hall, home for the College of Education and Human Services, to follow.

The projects, which were added to the university’s rolling capital plan in recent years, will be funded through the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, said Chris Kindl, Cal U. spokeswoman.

The rolling capital plan must be reviewed each year.

The science building will replace New Science and Frich Hall buildings, which will be demolished.

Construction of the new applied mathematics and science building will be more fiscally prudent than renovating and installing contemporary equipment in the old buildings, said Robert Thorn, vice president for administration and finance.

Keystone Hall, the most used classroom building at the university, will undergo a $23.6 million renovation, which includes an addition for classroom space equal to five seminar rooms and 16 traditional style classrooms, all of which include distance education capabilities.

Preliminary work on the projects will get underway soon, Kindl said.

Also Wednesday, Geraldine M. Jones, president of Cal U., said she is “cautiously optimistic” enrollment will increase in the fall, for the first time in several years.

The university has received more undergraduate applications, acceptances and deposits than it did at this time last year, said Dr. Bruce D. Barnhart, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“I’m encouraged by early fall 2017 enrollment reports,” said Jones. Cal U. is among Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities that have experienced a steep drop in enrollment.

It had 7,553 students attending classes last fall, down 20 percent from a record high of 9,483 in 2001.

Enrollment dropped during the winter session for the first time.

Jones also announced the university launched a Strategic Enrollment Plan, aimed at increasing enrollment, in February.

The university has stepped up marketing efforts, including a television commercial campaign; developing new programs and is working to increase female athlete and military and veteran recruitment and improve campus visit experiences.

In another matter, Jones addressed a January announcement by the State System of Higher Education it will review Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities because of enrollment declines over the past six years.

“No one knows what this strategic review will mean for the state system and our sister universities … but I can tell you what it means for California University. It means that now is the time for change and for changing the university’s destiny,” said Jones. “To keep our university strong and relevant, we must be bold enough to turn our backs on business as usual, we must be willing to try something new, we must be clear-eyed about our university’s shortcomings and fierce advocates for its strengths.”

She said the SEP, which includes proposals for high-impact academic programs, is an important step to provide “a stronger, brighter future for the university and the students we serve.”

The board of trustees also set tuition rates for the doctorate of criminal justice program, which was approved in January by the state system’s Board of Governors.

The professional doctorate, designed for senior level criminal justice practitioners, is the first regionally accredited DCJ degree in the country, Jones said. Classes, which begin this summer, will be delivered online. The tuition rate is $531 per credit for in-state students and $798 for out-of-state students.