By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
When students arrived at the new Stone Child College campus in 2003, the three large buildings that framed a view of the Bear Paw Mountains were only phase one of a three-phase project. Phase two is beginning, including both small-scale improvements and a $1.4 million building.
Funding for the building, provided by a U.S. Department of Education construction grant for tribal colleges, was approved late last year and groundbreaking is scheduled for next month.
The new facility will have an area for hosting graduations and large assemblies, as well as office space and two spaces for lab- or studio-based classes, college president Melody Henry said Monday.
School administrators will meet today to discuss which programs will use the new space. Fine arts and vocational education are likely options, Henry said.
Grants were available for 10 of the country's 33 tribal colleges. Applicants had to demonstrate a need for additional facilities, but were not required to identify specifically how the space would be used, Stone Child administrator Edward Stamper said today.
The floor plan is intentionally generic, Henry said, because the college plans to offer vocational training in a given field for one or two years at a time and then switch offerings to avoid saturating the local market.
"It could be easily adapted," she said.
The college also received a $150,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant in December to pay for renovation and expansion of the school cafeteria - also part of the second phase - as well as the purchase of school vans for busing students.
The cafeteria, which opened in former Malmstrom Air Force Base housing last year, re-opened last month for the new semester. It now seats 75 people and boasts a grill for cooking breakfast and full lunches, in addition to the soup and sandwich offerings previously available. The cost of renovation was more than $100,000, Henry said.
"We just wanted to expand and do more business with the community," she said. "There's not really a whole lot of places for students and staff to go."
The cafeteria is a convenience for faculty and students, and also a source of revenue, she said.
With the rest of the USDA grant, the college purchased vans in order to make more daily runs to pick up and drop off students.
Finally, the college has used funds from its own budget to renovate another home donated by the Malmstrom Air Force Base to Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. When finished, the home will house on-campus day care.
Day care is available five miles away at two sites near the agency. One of the sites will remain open, and the on-campus day care will replace the other site, Henry said.
"There were a lot of students that said they didn't have transportation," she said. "It's a cost-saving measure for our students."
The added conveniences are good for students, and good for the school. "If we can have everything here and keep them here, they'll stay here and go to class," she said.
Graduation rates on the new campus are up and still rising, administrators say. In the past, the college would normally graduate about 20 students each year. Thirty-one students are expected to graduate this year, Stamper said.
"A lot of people want to come here because we have the new, beautiful campus," Henry said about the growing numbers of students.
"Besides the new campus, I think it's the opportunities that we give to our students" Stamper added. "Our facilities, our transportation, our child care, our scholarships, they all probably help us," he said.
Scholarships and stipends are available to students who study computer science, natural science or teacher preparation, Stamper said. There are also scholarships available to students in other fields.
Phase three in the Stone Child College building plan includes a student union and student housing - something that administrators say is still years in the future.
In the meantime, Henry said, the administrators will be looking for other ways to improve the college's offerings and facilities. There are 251 students enrolled in the spring semester so far. Registration will remain open through April 9, when classes start.