Close to 2,000 students will make history this week when they become the first students to take classes on what may be the only brand new full-service college campus in the country.
Some of them even showed up early for 8 a.m. classes on Monday, the first day of the semester to participate in a 7:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony heralding the official opening of "NCC Monroe" a branch campus of Northampton Community College.
"I'm speechless," said Student Governance president Carla Garis as she surveyed the buildings and the spacious courtyard.
"It's hard to take it all in."
Like other returning students, Garis had previously taken classes in an old blouse factory that Northampton had converted into classrooms and offices in 1992.
It had been expanded three times as enrollment grew. Then space ran out.
"Students were literally tripping over each other in the halls," says the college dean, Dr. Matt Connell.
In 2005, Northampton purchased 72 acres of land not far from the blouse factory to build a "real" campus.
The economic downturn delayed the start of construction until 2011.
Students, faculty, college officials and community leaders agree that the campus was worth the wait.
The three buildings include classrooms and laboratories that feature state-of-the-art educational technology, a library with futuristic lighting, a bookstore, a food court, art studios and an art gallery, a full-size gymnasium, a fitness center, a homey child care center, room for meetings and continuing education classes, and lots of study space.
Funding for the $72 million project came from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, individual and corporate donations, gaming revenues, the Northampton Community College Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community Development, and Monroe County.
Continuing education classes for youth and adults, professional development courses, corporate training programs and cultural program will be offered on the campus in addition to degree programs.
The campus in Tannersville is expected to become a learning laboratory for students and others interested in environmental sustainability.
It was built to LEED Gold standards. Solar will provide about 40 percent of the campus's annual electrical needs.
Geothermal will provide 100 percent of the cooling and heating requirements.
The campus is located in the center of Monroe County on Route 715, close to Route 80 and Route 611.