By Perry Schaible
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Miami University officials hope to get $3.5 million from Ohio's 2004 capital budget to pay for construction and furnishings for the Voice of America Learning Center.
The 21,000-square-foot facility will be a multi-institutional instruction center offering classes and programs to both traditional and nontraditional students.
Officials want to open the learning center by September 2006 and will break ground contingent on the state funds, said Rod Nimtz, assistant executive director at Miami's Middletown campus.Nimtz will update the West Chester trustees today.
The Voice of America Learning Center will be on Cox Road north of Tylersville Road. Miami University was given 20 acres there by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996 after the former Voice of America Relay Station was decommissioned.
In 2000, Miami received $500,000 in state funds for design and engineering work and was given an additional $1 million in the 2002 state capital budget. The project is expected to cost $5 million.
Nimtz said Miami's regional campuses in Middletown and Hamilton also have set aside local funding for costs not covered by state capital appropriations.
As many as 100 classes a week could be offered in five classrooms, two computer labs, four conference rooms and 120-seat auditorium.
"A facility like this can bring courses or complete academic programs to times and places convenient to where people live and where people work," Nimtz said.
And, with the booming population in Butler and Warren counties, West Chester Township was the ideal location, he said.
"I think the learning center is a wonderful resource for this part of both Butler and Warren counties," said Catherine Stoker, trustee president. "It's an excellent idea for a number of universities to use" the same facility.
The Voice of America Learning Center is not a Miami campus, but would offer courses taught by several colleges. Nimtz said he has not yet sought commitments from other colleges.
Two additional universities will offer classes in West Chester. Indiana Wesleyan University will open a two-story campus on Schulze Drive in the fall. The University of Phoenix will have a branch near Union Centre Boulevard.
"A large gap in our development has been institutions of higher learning," Stoker said. "I guess it was feast or famine, and now we're moving into the feast side."
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