With increasing enrollment, York County Community College needs more classrooms. Pictured Thursday is a new building under construction at the Wells campus. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

With increasing enrollment, York County Community College needs more classrooms. Pictured Thursday is a new building under construction at the Wells campus. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

WELLS — York County Community College President Barbara Finkelstein started her tenure at the school in August 2014, around the same time student enrollment was on the rise.

Since then, the school’s growth has been impressive — 1.2 percent from fall 2014 to 2015 and 3.9 percent from fall 2015 to 2016 (an increase of 1,719 to 1,827) — according to Finkelstein.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Finkelstein didn’t take the credit for the growth. Instead she said it had everything to do with her staff as well as the quality and worth of the education YCCC provides.

“I think (students) realize it’s a very good value,” she said. Not only does the college provide “an excellent education” at a lower cost than just about any other institute of higher learning, but also credits earned at the two-year college can be transferred to a four-year university. In addition, she said, “We do a good job training students to go directly into the workforce.”

With the rise in enrollment, the already cramped quarters on the Wells campus were becoming even more overcrowded. The school, established in 1994, currently has only one classroom building on its main campus.

A capital campaign to raise $4.2 million, about half the amount needed to fund a new building was begun. Last year, construction started on the 18,000-square-foot building to include eight classrooms, a 140-seat lecture/performance hall, a developmental math and English lab, and a collaborative space where students will be able to work together like they would in the workplace.

The building is about 60 percent complete, said Finkelstein. She said the school plans a soft opening in July, offering one or two courses over the summer, and a grand opening in September, when all the classrooms and other facilities will be utilized.

Recently, the latest development in the new building process, but by no means the least, was announced. On Thursday, the Maine Community College System’s Board of Trustees approved a name for the new academic building. Per YCCC’s request, the building will be named for Pratt & Whitney, a company that designs and builds aircraft engines.

Naming the building after Pratt & Whitney “is something we felt was important,” said Finkelstein. “They’ve been such a good partner.” She said the company hires a number of YCCC students, conducts training for its employees at YCCC and is also the college’s largest donor.

Based in Hartford, Connecticut, and with a location in North Berwick, Pratt & Whitney has donated $200,000 to the construction of the new building and pledged another $500,000. It has also donated more than $300,000 in equipment to the college’s precision machining technology program based in Sanford.

In announcing the decision on the new buiding’s name, the state college system’s board Chair Jean Ginn Marvin said, “Pratt & Whitney has long recognized the critical role that YCCC plays in ensuring a skilled workforce. The company has been a strong and generous supporter of expanded educational and economic opportunities for the citizens of York County. We are pleased to recognize its contributions to the college and the wider community.”

“This new building demonstrates the Maine Community College System and Pratt & Whitney’s joint commitment to inspiring the next generation,” said Mike Papp, Pratt & Whitney vice president of Manufacturing & Module Center Operations. “This is a natural extension of our work with YCCC to attract and train a highly-skilled manufacturing workforce in the 21st century.”

 — Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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