MOUNT HOLLY — The Burlington County Board of Freeholders and Burlington County College are working together in hopes of winning a big prize: $2.4 million in state grant money for technology upgrades at the school.
The state recently announced available competitive grants for capital and equipment projects at higher education institutions, including county community colleges.
Freeholder Joseph Donnelly at the board’s conference meeting Tuesday asked his colleagues to approve funding the $500,000 match needed to secure one of the available grants. He said the matching money would yield $1 million in instructional technology and resources in college classrooms and upgrade technology infrastructure at the Pemberton Township and Mount Laurel campuses.
The college also has agreed to pursue a second grant, for $1.4 million, for additional upgradeswithin the Student Services Center to a design by Garrison Architects of Marlton. BCC would pay the required 25 percent match for debt service for that award, Donnelly said.
The funds would be paid out of the college’s minor capital reserve account, officials said.
“BCC’s existing network infrastructure at its primary locations in Pemberton and Mount Laurel was purchased in 2004 and is approaching nine years old,” college President David C. Hespe said. “In technology terms, it has reached its product end of life and cannot compete with the network technology available today and accommodate the tidal wave of student devices (handheld, mobile, pads etc.) being relied on by students.”
BCC’s $1 million Next Generation Enterprise Network project would replace the existing core and edge network switches, as well as the wireless network access points for the college, officials said. Students and faculty will reap the benefits of a true digital learning environment with increased bandwidth, faster network and application response, and seamless mobile device support, officials said.
“Currently, less than half of BCC’s classrooms offer dedicated digital audiovisual technologies for educational resources and materials suitable for a 21st-century learning environment,” Donnelly said. “The goal is to digitally enable 100 percent of BCC’s viable classrooms with next-generation AV and instructional technologies so that faculty members and students will have access to consistent and dependable learning resources.”
The project will include replacing existing older classroom equipment and upgrading computer labs, mobile technology labs and videoconferencing capability.
The grants are available through two state-supported bond programs, namely the Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund (HETI) and Higher Education Equipment Leasing Fund (ELF).
The HETI Fund requires the dollar-for-dollar match and finances technology infrastructure improvement. The ELF grant finances the purchase of equipment, held in the name of the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority and leased to schools. These projects must be related to scientific, engineering, technical, computer, communications or instructional equipment that will be used for the advancement of student education.
In 2012, the county contributed $500,000, or about 1 percent of BCC’s total budget, to the college to support its $45.2 million spending plan.
The reduction in the county contribution is the third cut in four years and represents a nearly $11.5 million loss in funding to the college since the 2008-09 school year, when the freeholders contributed $12 million, or about 30 percent, to the college’s then-$38.1 million budget. Tuition did not rise in 2012 and remains one of the lowest in the state.