Almost two years ago, the college made plans and hired an architectural firm to start design on expanding the Health Professions center, which would have cost the college over $10 million.

However, the college changed course and the Board of Regents approved a different plan for the health professions programs. They voted to allow the program to spread out on campus, taking over the College Union Rooms, the corridor where the Bursar’s office is located, and other areas near Art and Humanities.

The price of the new project? Only about $250,000 according to an agenda from the Feb. 15 OCCC Board of Regents Meeting.

Administrators and faculty said the center needed more space to allow for the increase in students who wanted to become nurses, EMTs, anesthesia techs, and other health care professionals.

This project addresses all health professions except for the anesthesia tech area, Dr. Jeremy L. Thomas, interim president, told the board in a Feb. 15 meeting.

This decision is what makes sense for OCCC both financially and economically as OCCC has many underutilized areas that are in need of repair or renovation, Erick Worrell, executive creative director and public information officer, said speaking for the OCCC executive leadership team.

“Reorganizing and renovating our current spaces will allow us to meet the demand for health professions students, faculty, staff and technology, while saving a significant amount of funds that can now help us bring other parts of the campus into the new era,” Worrell said.

Faculty, staff and student representatives from Health Professions and Facilities Management were invited to participate in the planning process, he said.

Administration is getting positive feedback about this new plan to take over the other areas on campus, Thomas said in the February regents meeting.

“We’re the number two nursing school in Oklahoma, we have some of the highest certification rates, test scores, job placement and employer satisfaction rankings in the market,” Worrell said.

“We’ve managed to do that because of exceptional faculty and staff who didn’t have the tools, the space and the resources they needed, but pulled it off anyway,” he said.

This decision shows that it is time to invest in the staff and faculty of the health professions and to make sure that they are set up for future success, he said.

“The wonderful thing about the renovations and reorganizing we’re doing now is that they will bring existing spaces up to speed and address the immediate needs. If those needs change, or grow or expand, we can still look into future expansions and upgrades,” Worrell said.

The quarter-million budget for the expansion project does not include the monies needed for designing all programs in health professions.

“We are currently developing the anesthesia technology project, we anticipate that project being under the $50,000 threshold for board action,” Chris Snow, executive director of Facilities Management told the Regents. Administrators said despite this expansion, there will be needs in a matter of years to find even more space for students and faculty in Health Professions 

While the project is expected to meet the current needs of the programs who will spread out on campus to do their training, there will be more space required for the program’s growth, Thomas said.