Construction plans are underway for a new three-story campus building in the Irving Park neighborhood to move El Centro, a satellite campus of NEIU. The $15 million project is supposed to provide better accommodation for the facility’s growing needs. It will be funded through the addition to NEIU’s debt, but will add overall value to the institution, with a possibility of receiving tax increment financing (TIF) development funds from the city of Chicago.
Currently, El Centro functions from a leased space at 3119 N. Pulaski, in the heart of a large Latino community four miles south of the main campus. Along with undergraduate and graduate college classes, it offers community services like ESL, computer literacy and assistance with GED. “Known as NEIU-El Centro [the center], this campus provides educational opportunities to members of the Latino community, though not exclusively, in or near their own neighborhoods,” its webpage says.
El Centro’s stay on Pulaski is limited by the expiration of its lease in June 2013. The center has also seen growing student demand and needs more space, according to the President’s Report given at the Feb. 9 Board of Trustees meeting. To solve the issue, the university faced two options, to lease another facility or buy real estate and construct one. The second option was chosen.
The proposed facility to be built at 3400 N. Drake will have more space for classrooms, student support centers, computer labs and parking. The new location is also within easy access of public transportation and is right off of the Kennedy Expressway, giving it good visibility. “(The construction) is definitely worth it. It cannot flourish where it is,” said Alexandra Garcia, an undergraduate student who was able to attend college though the services she received from El Centro.
At the board meeting, both President Sharon Hahs and Chair of the Board Dr. Carlos Azcoitia urged the need for the construction and timely completion of the building. Yet, some of those who attended, including an associate professor at NEIU, questioned the need for such an expense.
El Centro is one of the factors contributing to a possible tuition increase next year. Higher tuition for 2013 was suggested in last November’s board meeting to balance “the strategic goals of the University, such as…the establishment of the new El Centro facility.” Further discussion of the issue will take place in April.