Rhonda Starr of Bettendorf likes numbers. The 50-year-old remains on track to earn her associate’s degree in account management from Scott Community College by the fall of 2016.
But she’s not fond of the growing student loan debt she’ll have to pay back after graduation. She receives about $250 per credit hour in financial aid from the state, which covers the cost of “my books and that’s it,” the first-time college student said.
“Everyone here could use more scholarship money,” Kaigan Swanson, a 19-year-old student, added. “There’s just not enough to go around.”
And she’s right, college officials said.
Nearly a year after Eastern Iowa Community Colleges announced its plan to develop an urban campus in downtown Davenport, college officials announced on Friday the launching of a capital fundraising campaign. They hope to raise $6 million — $5 million to build the Scott Community College urban campus and another $1 million to fund student scholarships over the course of the next year.
Currently, the Scott Community College Foundation supports less than 2 percent of scholarships for students, Teresa Paper, the college’s president, said at a news conference.
“Students who come to Scott Community College have some of the highest financial needs of any students in higher education,” said Paper, who added the college is committed to increasing the amount of scholarship dollars for students in the community.
Chancellor Don Doucette said regional charitable foundations and college board members and leaders already have donated nearly $3 million for the work — half their goal.
Upon completion, Doucette said the urban campus, which Restoration St. Louis will help develop, will better serve students who want to study and live in downtown Davenport.
“We currently don’t offer a complete associate degree in downtown Davenport,” Doucette said. “To better serve that constituency, we need a facility designed … for students who come to us looking for the education and training that will change their lives.”
The project will move five floors of classrooms from the Kahl Building to a larger, centralized mini-campus in two former bank buildings downtown. The First Federal Bank and First Midwest Bank buildings on 3rd Street between Brady and Main streets will be connected by a third structure, creating a combined 80,000 square feet with a 1,500-student capacity.
The Kahl Building then would be renovated into 80 market-rate apartments while the historic Capitol Theatre will be transformed into a first-run movie theater.
In addition, college offices that now occupy second-floor space at the Transit Center on River Drive will relocate to the new campus.
The three-building renovation could begin by next spring, and the target date for holding classes at the new downtown campus is the fall of 2017.
The entertainment and living components of the project are expected to open by the fall of 2018.
Meanwhile, college officials vowed to come up with a funding mix that does not rely on new taxes and does not raise tuition. Doucette specified the college is seeking historic tax credits.
Representatives of Restoration St. Louis have said the company’s role will be as “full-service developer.”
The partners said they plan to close on an economic-development deal with the city after the first of the year.
As the downtown living trend continues grow in the Quad-Cities, Sylvia Banes, president of the Eastern Iowa Community College District Foundation, said the project is coming at the “ultimate” time.
“For the longest time, they (Scott Community College) have been just a small part of downtown,” she said. “With this effort, we will be prominent.”