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Interim BRCC chancellor sets sights on expansion.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)--Interim Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor Jim Horton has only been on the job one week and he's already discussing expansion.

"We're going to have to figure out how to expand our reach," Horton said.

Horton said BRCC should "reach out to the east."

By the east, Horton is referring to the 200 acres of Smiley Heights property northeast of BRCC.

BRCC is expecting to grow to about 8,700 students this fall, Horton said, and the college is landlocked in its existing location.

The plan is to build an automotive training "center of excellence" that would fill an important workforce development need for southern Louisiana, said Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

May said many automotive dealerships must send their employees to Houston for training because the right programs are not available within the state.

"I'm pretty pumped about it," May said. "Two hundred acres in the middle of town really is a rare find."

The first step is building a 60,000-square-foot facility, while leaving additional space for BRCC to grow. But planning is ongoing and no timetable is set, May said.

Much of the acreage also is wetlands.

The project is going through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, a nonprofit group that takes vacant land and turns it into marketable property. The plan also includes an $18 million East Baton Rouge Parish School Board charter school, on about 10 acres, opening with a student body of about 400 students but with room for 1,000 and focusing on workforce development in digital media and culinary arts, among other areas.

Horton retired at the end of June as the president of Yavapai College in northern Arizona. He vowed not to seek the job beyond the interim. He replaced Myrtle Dorsey, who left BRCC to become the new chancellor of St. Louis Community College.

May said Horton offers "new opportunities for change and transition." The plan is to hire a permanent chancellor in early 2012 once a national search is conducted, May said, although Horton could stay longer if the search takes longer than anticipated.

Horton said he is impressed with the people, the facilities and the academic programs at BRCC.

"Clearly, there's a lot more to be done and there's a lot more expansion opportunities," Horton said.
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Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Aug 8, 2011
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