TITUSVILLE — The transformation of the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville campus into an education and training hub took a leap forward Thursday with a commitment from the state to invest $2 million in the project.

Pitt will more than match the state’s contribution, said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who heads the 35,000-student, five-campus system.

The total investment of more than $4 million will be used to transform a number of campus buildings into structures suitable for the new campus “Hub,” as it’s being called.

“It’s an investment that will secure a stronger economic future for the six-county region," Gallagher said. "And it’s an investment that will infuse talent and opportunity into the area for generations to come. The real success of this ‘Hub’ model is its potential to create a much more direct connection between education providers and employers.”

Construction is expected to begin in fall 2019 and be completed in approximately one year, Gallagher said. The renovations will focus on reconfiguring existing buildings rather than replacing old buildings with new.

“The state support will be used to transform buildings on the campus to use by multiple partners: shared space for us, our community college partner and a training center,” said Lawrence Feick, interim president of Pitt’s campuses in Titusville and Bradford. “All the higher education institutions will be integrated, in part though the space. For example, all health-related courses will be taught in the same building regardless of which partner is offering the course.”

The combination of traditional college classes as well as classes offered by an as-yet unidentified community college partner and vocational training programs is intended to improve the long-term viability of the Titusville campus.

In addition to incorporating community college courses and training programs, Pitt-Titusville will adapt its courses to offer more in high-demand areas such as nursing, according to Gallagher.

Student enrollment at the Titusville campus was just under 300 last school year, Gallagher said. Five years earlier, enrollment was just under 400, according to the university’s “Fact Book 2013.”

The minimum number of students needed to maintain the campus’ viability factored into the development of the “Hub” concept, Gallagher said.

“I think you’re going to see hundreds of students on that campus, but what I can’t tell you right now is the mix” of how many students will be traditional Pitt-Titusville students and how many will be enrolled in the anticipated partner programs, he said. “Our partners confirmed that the demand is really there.”

The $2 million commitment announced Thursday shows support from the state is there as well.

“From the Commonwealth’s perspective,” said state Sen. Michelle Brooks, whose district includes all of Crawford County, “this is a very worthwhile investment.”

Under the campus hub model, partners will offer specialized programs with active input from regional employers — a move that will directly address the region’s education and training needs. The University of Pittsburgh at Titusville will continue to offer programs for traditional college-age students in addition to developing programs for nontraditional students that may include online, evening, intensive and executive learning options. Pitt students in Titusville will have the option to complete programs at the education and training campus “Hub” or transfer to other University of Pittsburgh campuses to advance their education.

“It’s exciting to get this going,” Gallagher said of the “Hub” plan first released in February. “When the money shows up to start working on the campus, it gets real in a way it hasn’t been before. This lets us roll up our sleeves and get the campus ready for this ‘Hub’ model.”

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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