Budget woes stall campus extension

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Lauren Adams

PADUCAH, KY- Sitting in a crowded classroom at Murray's Crisp Center Amanda Wright is hit with a sense of remorse.

"I should have gone to Murray but I didn't so here I am," she admits.

Ten years after graduating high school, Wright is back in the classroom- taking college classes for a degree in social work. But these classes are anything but ideal.

Instructors, it is noticed, aren't even in the classrooms.  Professors in Murray are broadcast through the internet to sites like the Crisp Center.

"A lot of times the instructor forgets to hit the button and doesn't remember until her thought is already done," student Leigh Lamb says of the technology.

"Paducah deserves better," Murray State President Dr. Randy Dunn says of their current facilities.

He says it is not the place for 'higher' education, "We have a tough job selling the Crisp Center.  It's an outdated facility- it's an old soda factory."

So, Murray State is moving on.  More than a year ago they purchased a 23.26 acre tract of land along Audubon Drive.   The college has the land, the students, the Crisp Center, Dunn says, has the highest enrollment among regional campuses but thanks to a state budget deficit- no money.

Still, Dunn is not giving up, "This is the time to at least get that work started."

Dunn has abandoned the school's master building plans of 17 million dollars.  Instead, he is asking the state for 1.7 million dollars to prepare the land for a building- one that would include teachers, more classes, and more degrees.

That is welcome news to students like Amanda Wright, who needs a master's degree (currently not available in Paducah) to become a high school guidance counselor.

"Going here is the only way I can really get to my goals," she said of her limited budget.

Dr. Dunn says when the school gets up and running plans include a baccalaureate program that would tie into Paducah's river industry and extensive nursing classes.

Murray State University has already applied for state funding for phase one of the project.  A decision will be reached by April when that legislative session ends.  If MSU does get approval, they are hoping to begin construction by 2012.

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