Mesa State’s Montrose campus growing, may remodel

Nursing students study in class at the Mesa State Montrose Campus on Wednesday.



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Nursing students study in class at the Mesa State Montrose Campus on Wednesday.

The Mesa State College building at 234 S. Cascade Ave. in Montrose hasn’t changed much since Laretha Palmer’s daughter attended school there.

That’s a little strange for some students, considering Palmer’s daughter walked the site’s locker-filled halls when it was an elementary school.

Palmer, a 49-year-old nursing student at the Montrose campus, is looking forward to a renovation project likely to take place this summer at the school.

“Anything to spruce this place up would be nice,” Palmer said. “Colleges don’t usually have lockers.”

The college moved into the building in 1998, three years after it stopped being an elementary school, according to Joey Montoya Boese, director of the Montrose campus. Boese said 50 percent enrollment growth in two years and an ever-expanding list of programs in Montrose necessitate building upgrades.

The preliminary plan is to gut and reconfigure the building to make two of the nine classrooms larger, add small meeting rooms and a computer lab, and update the building with new technology. A nursing lab will remain in the building, and a new science lab would be included in the plans, so students wouldn’t have to go to Montrose High School for lab work.

The estimated $600,000 project depends largely on $470,000 from the Montrose City Council. The council will decide Tuesday whether to use the money, given to the council in the form of two $135,000 Department of Housing and Urban Development grants and a $200,000 Small Business Congressional Grant, for the renovation project. The council gave the idea a warm initial reception in a workshop March 15.

Council member Carol McDermott said the resolution to commit the grant money to Mesa State’s Montrose campus should easily pass. She said having the college in town has helped educate the town’s adults and offered a way for local 12th-graders to earn college credit in town while still in high school. McDermott said she hopes the college continues to grow and believes the local branch is just beginning to show its potential.

“The fact that it’s in an elementary school is a start. We need to look at this as a seed,” she said.

Mesa State is raising funds for the remaining $130,000 needed for the project, plus another $400,000 for equipment for the nursing lab.

A new look isn’t the only change Montrose students have to look forward to. In August, Associated Student Government members will launch a pilot program that will offer Montrose students membership to Anytime Fitness in Montrose with help from the $7.35 fee each student already pays to use the Maverick Center gym in Grand Junction. The pilot will begin with 30 students.

Associated Student Government members also are working on a way to provide free bus passes for Montrose students to ride the bus from home or work to class. The group could have a draft contract for the project by mid-April, according to ASG President Nick Lopez.

Hank Suppes, an 18-year-old business student in Montrose, said he would use the gym offer. It’s another improvement that has encouraged him to stay in town rather than transfer after a couple years to a larger school.

“I prefer it here,” Suppes said.

Suppes and Palmer are two of 330 students at the Montrose campus. Enrollment increased by 100 students since spring 2009, growth that warrants the renovations, according to English Professor Rhonda Claridge. With some classes at capacity, any extra growth could warrant more than a remodel, she said.

“I feel as though things are sufficient but most likely the student body is going to outgrow this building,” Claridge said.

Hospitality management student Victoria Grover, 22, is looking forward to a new look on campus. But she’s not sure the college will be big enough to move or expand quite yet.

“Montrose will have to grow a lot more for that to happen,” she said.

A lease for the building will keep the school in its current location for at least another 15 years, according to Mesa State Strategic Initiative Director Derek Wagner.



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