The unveiling of a sleek new student enrollment center at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City provided City Councilman Eric Gioia and Council Speaker Gifford Miller a choice opportunity to take shots at the mayor’s West Side Stadium plans.
Economic opportunity, Miller said to cheers at the ribbon-cutting on Monday, “is about investing in top-quality institutions, not football stadiums.”
The 22,000-square-foot enrollment center will house a “one-stop center” where students will be able to get advice on financial aid, registration and academic planning without having to go from office to office. Miller led the campaign for $7.3 million in capital funding from the City Council that paid for the center.
On Monday, Kwame Annar-Mensah, a first-semester student from Ghana, registered for Biochemistry, English 102 and Developmental Psychology at the new center, with the help of one of the roving advisors. “It really has a big-school feel,” he said of the center, which houses dozens of computers in a bright, windowed room that allows students to take care of their academic and financial concerns.
Giving it that “big-school feel” was exactly what the planners had in mind. Located in the former Sunshine Biscuit factory at 29-10 Thomson Avenue, the building is in the process of a larger remodelling that will include elevators, a new roof and classrooms, faculty offices and labs on the 8th and 9th floors.
The college, part of the CUNY system, expects the state to match the city’s $7.3 million, along with another $1 million from the Borough President’s Office. Vice President of Admission Richard Elliot said the school is expecting another $19 million from the City Council to complete the work.
“This year our enrollment has increased substantially,” he said, “and we expect it to continue.” Currently 13,500 students are enrolled in credit classes, with an additional 30,000 students in adult and continuing education. In addition, two public high schools, Middle College High School and International High School call the LaGuardia campus home.
LaGuardia College students, largely recent immigrants and from working-class backgrounds, come from over 150 different countries and speak more than 110 languages. Gioia said this funding reinforces the American dream. “If you are willing to work really hard,” he said, “you will have access to opportunity.”
Not missing a beat, he added that the school was a stone’s throw from the Sunnyside railyards. “Maybe we could use a platform there,” Gioia half-joked, “maybe the Mets could play there, maybe the Jets could play there.”
Jose Plasencia, an educational planner at the college, staffs the desk for three hours a day like the rest of the advisement staff. With all three offices in one place, he said, “A student can walk in the door and get as much assistance as he or she needs.”