BRIDGEPORT – Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Housatonic Community College President Anita T. Gliniecki and a host of other dignitaries ushered in a new era for Housatonic Community College Tuesday, Oct. 7 when they “cut the ribbon” to formally open Beacon, Hall, the college’s 174,500 square-foot addition.

The new building, which began hosting classes with the start of the fall semester last month, relieves a space crunch that began less than two years after the college moved from its temporary home on Bridgeport’s east side to its downtown campus. With the new building opened, college enrollment reached 5,081 students, an increase of some 15 percent over the 4,475 students who registered in the fall of 2007, and a 92 percent increase over the 2,653 who registered in the fall of 1996, the college’s last semester at its east side campus.

“This community college is one of those communities that are on the move,” Gov. Rell said. “This is a community college that has seen enrollment increase by an amazing 92 since 1996.”

Beyond this, she said, the college has a $284 million annual economic impact on the economies of Fairfield and New Haven Counties

“Its facts and figures like these that makes investing in Housatonic relatively easy,” she said.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch stressed the importance of education and the role Housatonic plays in this regard.

Noting that the city has partnered with Housatonic in offering a construction management program, Finch said, “We cannot do what we want to do in this society without places like this building,” he said.

“There is very little that our government does that is as important as preparing for the future by educating the next generation,” he said.

The questions of ‘how did we succeed?’ and ‘how did we fail?’ will be judged by how well we prepared that for the future, he said

HCC President Gliniecki noted that the additional space Beacon Hall affords is much needed.

“The opening of Beacon Hall has had an immediate positive impact for the residents of the college’s eleven town service region,” she said. “Fall course enrollment has increased almost 15 percent because we now have the classrooms to offer the courses that our students need.”

“The student reaction has been phenomenal,” she added. “They have not only filled the classrooms, but are using the multiple formal and informal gathering spaces for quiet study and group work.”

Gliniecki noted that students aren’t the only ones who welcome the new building.

“It's a toss up whether student or the faculty/staff response has been more enthusiastic,” she said. “Faculty and staff have been able to move (to the new building) from offices that were created in storage closets or housed four people in a space designed for two. Their excitement to have a “real” office is immeasurable.”

With this building the college has essentially doubled it size and thus the college is again able to welcome the multiple community groups to use the campus, she said.

Housatonic will hold a "Grand Opening” event to introduce the community to Beacon Hall Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will feature music, refreshments, guided tours of the new building, and workshops that will give visitors a taste of college life. Beacon Hall features an enlarged bookstore, more classrooms, more computer labs, new study areas, a wellness center, a cafeteria and many student areas.