Elizabethtown Comm­­­unity and Tech­nical College has a desire to allow its students to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree while living in the Hardin County area and shared the message with area business leaders Wednesday at the monthly Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The college is continuing work on its University Center, planned to be housed in the college’s student center, to achieve its goal. The center will bring several universities and programs to the college, allowing graduates of ECTC to continue their education while still remaining in the Hardin County area. College officials also said the center will help students save money.

Jay Box, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, said it is a “high priority” for nearly half of the student body at ECTC to obtain a degree beyond a two-year associate degree.

“The University Center will allow that dream to come true,” Box said.

The center is slated to start construction next year with a 2021 opening. It will cost about $4.3 million, of which about $2.3 million, or 54 percent, already has been raised.

Sharon Wright, chief nursing officer for Hardin Memorial Health and alumni of ECTC, said the center will be very important for her personally and professionally.

“A bachelor’s level nursing program and other bachelor’s level programs are important to us as we strive to recruit and retain top-shelf talent and a workforce here locally,” she said. “Many people leave our community to achieve that four-year degree and in doing so, many do not return to our community. It is vital that we provide more educational opportunities here locally and that we keep our talent local.”

In an interview last month with The News-Enterprise, Pate said the colleges who will be members of the center include Western Kentucky University, which already has a presence on campus, Spalding University and Northern Kentucky University. Murray State University and Morehead State University have expressed interest. Eastern Kentucky University also will be a member of the center by offering a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Pate said the programs offered by the colleges only would be those that would lead to jobs in the Hardin County area, such as manufacturing, business, nursing and information technology.

“It’s going to be a very broad spectrum, which is good for students. Students are going to have, as the result of obtaining these degrees, they’re going to have options here,” he said at the time. “This is a way to keep our local talent, local.”

Trey Crumbie can be reached at 270-505-1747 or tcrumbie@thenewsenterprise.com.

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