For more than 15 years, Cayuga Community College has been working in leftover, rented spaces. Now, it wants a home of its own.
The $11.2 million plan to buy the closed P&C Foods store at River Glen Square is intended, according to college President Daniel Larson, to create a space that “looks and feels and sounds and smells like a college campus.”
The plan requires the support of the Cayuga County Legislature and the State University of New York.
Cayuga Community College moved into Fulton in a very small way. It rented two classrooms in the basement of the Fulton Education Center in 1994. By the end of the year, the college was renting space at the closed Holy Family School on West Third St. Enrollment kept growing. So the college moved to the former department store space at the Fulton Commons shopping plaza and renovated that into 50,000 square feet of classrooms and laboratories.
That was in 2001. Larson said the college believed then that “it would take us 8 or 10 years to reach our current capacity…we were going to reach capacity faster than that.”
Enrollment this year at the Fulton branch campus is 1,300, up 200 from last year. Students are drawn to Cayuga not only by its programs, but by its relatively low cost. Tuition at Cayuga is $1,780 per semester, about two thirds of the $2,485 per semester cost of SUNY Oswego and similar costs at other SUNY four-year schools.
The P&C purchase would represent something else: permanence. Cayuga Community College has rented all of its prior homes in Fulton, including the current space at Fulton Commons. This time, the college would be an owner, not a renter; “masters of our own destiny,” Larson said.
The P&C store offers 50,000 square feet of space. Larson said that the college believes a small second story could be built on top of part of the building, providing another 20,000 square feet. That would be enough space to offer some amenities that the college has no space to offer now, such as rooms for college clubs and activities.
The college would also buy another 40 acres of land just south of the shopping center property Larson said the space would stretch all the way from the southern boundary of the shopping center to where the railroad tracks meet Route 481. He foresees athletic fields there, perhaps even a fieldhouse.
In the middle lies the K-Mart and its 90,000 square feet of space. Larson has asked the property’s owner to let the college know if that space should become available.
The final vision for the campus is that it would “provide a complete collegiate experience to our students,” Larson said. That would include a theater, gym and food service. The Fulton branch would be about as large as the main campus in Auburn and would complete an experiment begun more than 15 years ago to see whether there was a need for community college services in Oswego County.
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