COLUMBIA — Students at the Columbia branch of Moberly Area Community College are attending class in a newly transformed wing of a retail center.
The college set up classrooms in unused shops at the Parkade Center off of Business Loop 70 West. The classrooms are just down the hall from a pink Cadillac outside a Mary Kay store.
Moberly Area Community College transformed 37,000 square feet of retail shops in the Parkade Center into its new Columbia branch, complete with:
- Faculty and staff offices.
- One resource room.
- Three conference rooms.
- Three science labs.
- Five computer labs.
- 11 classrooms.
The new branch will have 15 staff members and 117 instructors for the 2,062 students.
Source: Moberly Area Community College
"It's a really nice place," MACC student Ilyas Suleymanov, 21, said. "Nicer. Bigger. Cleaner."
In the oversized hallway running through the center of the building, students, college administrators and community members mingled Thursday during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new branch. The college moved in July 12, and classes began Aug. 18.
The new 37,000-square-foot facility is capable of serving all 2,062 of the college's students - nearly the capacity of the building, MACC marketing director Jaime Morgans said.
“There are both day and evening classes, so those who work either at night or during the day are able to attend, and our online enrollment increased 54 percent in the last year," Morgans said. "There are also hybrid classes, where students only come to the classroom once a week.”
Knowing that enrollment numbers are on the rise, though, MACC picked the retail center because it provides the opportunity for expansion. The college could add classrooms in empty shops across the hall from its current setup in the future, MACC president Evelyn Jorgenson said.
“Our main hope is to not have to turn away any student,” Jorgenson said.
The property has 1,500 parking spaces, and though there is not room for every student to drive to campus every day, the hybrid and online classes prevent overcrowding. The extra parking spaces are a significant change from the Walnut location, Jorgenson said, where nearly half of the students had to park at Stephens Lake Park.
But even with larger attendance, MACC said it is committed to keeping the class sizes small. There are no more than 30 online, hybrid or traditional students in any class.
“We are the number one providers of transfer students for MU and Columbia College, so it is important to us that these classes are kept small," Jorgenson said. "Especially if students are not yet ready for a big school or even a private college.”
Shabazz Foster, 31, who recently has gone back to school, thought MACC was a good place to start before transferring to Columbia College.
"They work with you and want to help make the transition easy," Foster said. "I've taken classes at a couple colleges, and this is the best building in terms of location and it's available to lots of people."
Along with a new home for academics, there are new places where students are able to simply hang out. In addition to five computer labs, there is a new student center with vending machines, couches, tables and the bookstore adjacent with every book for every class, including online classes.
"The resource center is bigger and there are better opportunities to get what you need to get done," MACC student Anthony Hatton, 18, said. "(The ribbon cutting ceremony) signifies that the city of Columbia is trying to help out the people of their town."