Mercyhurst to buy North East bank building for MNE expansion

With a record enrollment at Mercyhurst North East (MNE) this year, and its nursing programs growing by leaps and bounds, Mercyhurst College has entered into an agreement to purchase the First National Bank building at 5999 Station Road, North East, to accommodate the growth.

The Mercyhurst College Board of Trustees, meeting Thursday, Oct. 25, voted unanimously to finalize the purchase of the 29,000-square-foot building and a five-acre plot of land just north of it.

Plans are to renovate the structure to encompass classroom and office space for the college’s practical nursing program and its Public Safety Institute, said Dr. Gary Brown, executive vice president of Mercyhurst North East. The college is also exploring the possibility of housing other current and future academic programs and departments in the building. There are no immediate plans for the use of the adjacent land.

“We are excited about this opportunity to take ownership of a modern, well-built structure that will provide much-needed space for growth among our existing programs and also allow us to evaluate new program options,” Brown said.

Further evidence of MNE’s growth came earlier this month, when the college joined with Hamot Medical Center to open the new Hamot Healthcare Center, a $2.9 million facility on the MNE campus. Besides bringing a wide range of healthcare services to the North East community, the center houses an infirmary for MNE students and provides the opportunity for new academic programs. Among those expected to be offered, beginning in the fall of 2008, are medical lab technician, occupational therapy assistant and respiratory therapy assistant.

Brown pointed out that MNE’s total student population is on an upward trajectory. This year, records were set for number of applications received, new students and new residents. The total number of applications received in 2007 was 1,550, surpassing last year’s record of 1,358. Plus, the total number of new students enrolling this year was 482, eclipsing the previous record of 461 set a year ago, and bringing the total student population to about 895, up from 860 students in 2006. In addition, there are more students living on campus than ever before, with 200 new residents, up from 175 last year.

Specifically, the nursing program is enjoying record growth, according to MNE Admissions Director Travis Lindahl. Total enrollment in the registered nursing program has risen steadily in the past five years, increasing from 116 total students in 2002 to 190 students in 2007. The same is true for the practical nursing program, which had a total enrollment of 49 students in 2002, and this year is home to 101 students.

Brown said The First National Bank will continue to occupy the first floor of the facility up to but no later than Aug. 31, 2008. The college, meanwhile, expects to begin renovations immediately after closing on the property and could be utilizing the facility, at least in part, within the next 60 days.
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