By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Gov. Deval Patrick has earmarked $32.9 million to upgrade science labs at Salem State University in the coming fiscal year.
The governor’s capital plan also calls for $20.7 million for North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus.
Patrick was expected to announce the news at this morning’s North Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hawthorne Hotel.
The projects will be funded in the governor’s fiscal 2014 capital investment plan and paid out over the next five years.
While science labs at Salem State’s Meier Hall have been updated over the years, this marks the first time they’ll get a major expansion or renovation since they were built in the 1960s.
Salem State has more students majoring in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) — close to 2,000 students — than any other school in the state university system. The university also has the largest nursing program, with 700 students, among all Massachusetts colleges, according to Patrick’s office.
“This is an important announcement not only for Salem State University, but also for the North Shore and the Commonwealth,” Salem State President Patricia Meservey said yesterday.
“It expands our ability to deliver to our students the best possible education in critical areas such as science and health when demand for those skills in the marketplace is higher than it has ever been. We appreciate the governor making this investment in our university’s future.”
The two colleges found out late yesterday they had been selected for the state funding. Tom Torello, a Salem State spokesman, said yesterday it was too early to say how soon the Meier Hall renovations could begin.
At North Shore Community College, the $20.7 million will pay for an addition on the Lynn campus to house tutoring programs, student services, academic technology, the college’s Center for Academic Success, student lounges, classrooms and other offices. The McGee building will also get expanded and upgraded labs, kitchen and campus police offices.
“Making investments that will modernize Salem State’s science labs and North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus will help shape the future of this region by better preparing students for the workforce needs of a global economy,” Patrick said in a press release.
The Meier Hall project will be the latest addition to a flurry of building projects at Salem State.
This fall, the college opened a new, $73.5 million library, the Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons. A new, $15 million fitness center, an addition to the O’Keefe Sports Center, will be dedicated in November. Also, plans are soon to be announced for a new residence hall, the first since the 525-bed Marsh Hall, which opened three years ago on the central campus.
North Shore Community College has about 6,400 students this year; SSU has 9,600 graduate and undergraduate students.
“The investments we make in our institutions of public higher education go a long way in creating a stronger Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, the former superintendent of schools in Swampscott. “We know that if we are able to inspire our students in state-of-the-art classrooms while also teaching them skills that will prepare them for the workforce, we will see a great return on our investment.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.