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Groundbreaking Held For New Missoula College

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MISSOULA -

It's a landmark day for two-year education in Montana as state and local leaders break ground on the new Missoula College site.

Years and years of finding funding and a location, heated meetings and planning, and finally shovels hit the dirt on the new Missoula College site, marking a big day for higher education.

"This will just open the door for so many students to get a great education that puts them right into work force or prepares them to go on to further education," said UM President Royce Engstrom.

Former Missoula College student and single mother, Sarah Smith spoke at Friday's groundbreaking.

"I was a non-traditional student, coming into school was intimidating," Smith said.

She said she found success at the Missoula College, graduating with honors in two associate degrees and a certificate, and now working toward two degrees at UM.

"They do a really good job of embracing you, and helping you find your path," Smith said.

Smith said getting her degree at the old Missoula College site had its challenges.

"Some of them are real obstacles, dealing with antiquated equipment, having to share space with a number of other programs," Smith said.

Governor Steve Bullock said he was shocked to see the old building, built in the 1968 for 700 students, still in use.

“Now you have over 2,000 students with eight trailers you can't even live in, how can you learn in them?" Bullock said.

The new site and the 155,000 square foot building will properly hold the 2,400 plus students the college expects to serve.

“No one will be able to drive by Missoula without seeing the Missoula College, and knowing higher education is critical to the community and welfare of the state," Engstrom said.

The new college is slated to be finished in mid 2017.

The 2013 Montana Legislature approved $29 million in state funding for a new Missoula College building. UM has to come up with three million more dollars.

Friday they learned they are getting closer to that figure. Blackfoot Telecommunications group announced a pledge of $500,000 to help construction. This is the largest-ever private donation to Missoula College.

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