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    Growth explodes thanks to more than $15M in funding; Fall 2019 enrollment hits all-time record

    A grant totaling $6 million will transform the Armory Building on the campus of Lamar State College Port Arthur into a state-of-the-art training facility.
    A grant totaling $6 million will transform the Armory Building on the campus of Lamar State College Port Arthur into a state-of-the-art training facility.

    Lamar State College Port Arthur has received two grants and a legislative appropriation totaling more than $15 million that will help renovate two buildings and support additional student services as the campus continues its trend toward explosive growth both physically and in its most recent enrollment numbers.

    LSCPA received notification this week of a $4.8 million grant that, with additional local matching funds, will reach $6 million to help renovate the existing Armory building, located along Lakeshore Drive. The grant is part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration efforts to help the State of Texas prepare for natural disasters and promote economic resiliency and business growth.

    The $2.87 million Title V grant, distributed by the U.S. Department of Education, will create the “Excelencia Center,” which will help Hispanic and other underserved students create a well-supported and successful path from high school and through college. That effort will include the addition of faculty and support staff as well as new computer equipment.

    The State legislature appropriated $6.265 million to help renovate the Ruby Fuller Building, a historic structure at LSCPA that is anchored by the First United Methodist Church, which celebrated its 100th year of existence in 2015. The building has fallen victim to the area’s recent hurricanes, including the devastating flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

    The booming growth of the college’s physical presence is an effort to keep up with demand as the student population continues to grow at Lamar State College Port Arthur. Over a four-year period since 2015, enrollment at LSCPA has increased 52.1 percent with the Fall 2019 mark of 2,741 students hitting an all-time high in the College’s history.

    EDA grant creates state-of-the-art Craft Training Facility
    The cavernous three-story building on Lakeshore Drive alongside the LSCPA softball field has stood mostly vacant for nearly a decade. The occasional welding class and dressing rooms for the Seahawks softball team have made the building home.

    The Armory, so named because it was once used by the U.S. military prior to being donated to the college, will soon become home to a state-of-the-art craft training facility that will provide education opportunities to help local residents get well-paying jobs quickly. The grant’s intent is to serve as a job catalyst to support the economic recovery in an area impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The project is expected to create 167 jobs.

    “Craft training differs from degree programs in that it focuses on short-term training designed to bring a student quickly into the workforce at a profitable wage,”Dr. Ben Stafford, Dean of Workforce Training and Continuing Education and author of the grant, said.  “This center will train craftsmen for all of the local expansion projects.”   

    Once the 23,000 square foot building is retrofitted, the college will be able to offer training in welding, scaffold building, pipefitting, rigging, structural steel, electrical, instrumentation, carpentry, concrete work, and a wide variety of safety training.

    The College will be partnering with Bechtel Engineering to offer five different craft apprenticeships, Stafford explained. Once students complete their College training, they will be interviewed by Bechtel. Those hired will proceed into 1,000 hours of paid on-the-job-training. At the completion of their apprenticeship they will enter the workforce just one step below a Journeyman.

    “While it is common to see advanced simulation in degreed programs,” Stafford said, “this craft training center will be one-of-a-kind in bringing realistic industry conditions into the College training environment.” The facility will include classrooms, labs, office space and will continue to be home to the school’s softball program. Construction on the upgrades is expected to begin in late 2019.

    The City of Port Arthur’s Economic Development Corporation is contributing $1 million toward the matching fund requirement, while Bechtel is donating equipment to cover the additional matching amount. With the initial grant, the total investment will be $6 million.

    “In 2018, EDA made $587 million in Congressional supplemental appropriations available to eligible grantees in communities impacted by natural disasters in 2017,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming. “We are pleased to support Texas communities, including several in Opportunity Zones, as they work to diversify and strengthen the State’s economy.”

    These projects are all funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123) (PDF), in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires, and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.

    Title V Grant for $2.87M targets underserved student population
    Many LSCPA students come from low-income households and are often the first in the family to attend college. The U.S. Department of Education Title V grant will address the need for additional support for those students with the creation of the “Excelencia Center” on campus.

    The more than $2.87 million grant, distributed over five years, will fund the Excelencia Center and its efforts to provide success coaches and tutors as well as additional computer equipment and upgraded facilities to attract and retain students considered to be in at-risk categories.

    More than 250 applications were received for this grant with LSCPA rated among the top 30 in the country. Only 43 grants were funded nationally.

    “We will have a more deliberate outreach to Hispanic students as well as first generation students, providing them with the necessary information about accessibility and the importance of education,” Dr. Pamela Millsap, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “Nearly half of Hispanic college students report that their parents had not earned a high school diploma. This grant and the Excelencia Center will create momentum for the Hispanic community to embrace education as a necessity rather than an option for the future.”

    Especially important, Millsap explained, is the need for a bridge from high school to college for at-risk students.

    “Hispanic and traditionally underserved students are disproportionately academically unprepared for college-level courses,” she said. “Student support services need to be consolidated and tailored to meet student needs in order to be effective. They need help transitioning from high school to college and this program will help them establish themselves as bona fide, dedicated students who are successful more quickly and consistently.”

    Legislative appropriation of $6.32M to rescue historic Ruby Fuller
    The past few hurricanes have been rough on LSCPA’s Ruby Fuller Building but none more than Harvey in 2017. The flooding resulting from Harvey made the building unusable for classrooms and staff facilities.

    The 86th Texas legislative session through SB 500 provided special appropriations of $6.32 million to LSCPA for property damage related to Hurricane Harvey. The funding will provide for a modern interior space and major repairs to the exterior of the building. The current classroom addition will be removed, allowing for a grand secondary entrance to the building. Once the renovations are completed, plans include locating classes, faculty, and student support services into the building.