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New Missoula College building to accommodate growing student body

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After two and half years, the finishing touches are being put on the new Missoula College bringing a new era that will help accommodate a growing student body. 

The Missoula College provides two-year occupational and technical education. With more than 35 different programs offered in areas of need that will grow the economy, it prepares students for immediate employment in the workforce

Their current building which is owned by Missoula County Public School District was only meant to house 800 students. For the past few years, it's been double that. The new building along Broadway Street is right on the Clark Fork River across from the University of Montana's main campus. It has enough room for 2,600 students, which the dean says is a number they hope to soon see. 

While fall enrollment on the main campus was down 6.1 percent, the Missoula College numbers were up 2.3 percent. Official spring numbers haven't been released yet, but Missoula College Dean Shannon O'Brien says there are around 2,000 students on campus. O'Brien expects numbers will continue to grow, saying there's an elevated interest in the Missoula College. 

The new building houses food service and common areas, a new library, and state-of-the-art 21st century labs for health, pharmacy and medical programs.

"The building is a dignified space for students and it's a space for students to want to hang out and students are much more likely to be successful if they're in a space that they are apart of and engaged it," says O'Brien.

For O'Brien it feels very much like an investment in both the students and economy. She says the new building shows that two-year education is prioritized as it helps our economy.

Students work very closely with local businesses in apprenticeships, but before that can begin they rely on the classroom to provide them with real world experience. The new building brings them 21st century training.

"It was high time that we offer...that we have more space for our students, but also the technology so that students can graduate with experience on the most current tools and technologies so they can go right into the work force and know what they're doing," says O'Brien.

O'Brien says half her current students are on track to graduate with an associates degree. Some of those students will go on to join the workforce while others will continue a four-year education. 

Students won't be on campus until this fall, but O'Brien says there is much to do before then. Furniture arrives next week and the official move in date is sometime after graduation. 

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