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Construction firm named for $28M Central State student center

Central State University is moving forward on plans to expand its physical campus and strengthen enrollment.

The historically black university this week announced that Smoot Construction, a Columbus-based minority-owned firm, will lead its new $28 million student center project.

The 126-year-old university also is discounting tuition for some out-of-state students when classes begin Aug. 19, including those from the metro areas of Chicago and Detroit.

“This gives us an opportunity to be competitive,” said Dean Phyllis Jeffers-Coly.

Smoot will ensure equal opportunity for other local minority-owned and women-owned businesses during construction of the student center, which is expected to open in fall 2015, according to Central State. The firm, which also constructed the Hollywood Casino in Columbus and Ohio State University’s new student union, was deemed a “best value” for the university by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

Its selection is pending completion of final development agreements, according to CSU.

“We are confident in Smoot Construction’s ability to execute on our vision for a new student facility that Centralians will be proud of for years to come,” said Central State President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond.

Jeffers-Coly said the new center is “critical” and important to the student experience. “The student center is like the town square,” she said. “For our students to have that gathering space is really valuable.”

Jeffers-Coly also said that offering lower tuition will help Central State compete for students in Indiana, who sometimes live closer to the Wilberforce campus than those from other parts of Ohio, including Cleveland.

“If these students can walk away with less financial obligation, then they’re going to get to play in the economic game. They’re going to get to buy houses, they’re going to grad school,” she said.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey approved the change, which cuts the out-of-state tuition surcharge by 80 percent for residents in Cook County, Ill., Wayne County, Mich., and Marion County, Ind. The waiver reduces tuition $6,000 per year, Central State said.

Indiana students also will get tuition reciprocity that cuts their bills by $7,000 per year for students from 24 counties, including Wayne, Randolph, Union, Dearborn, Jay, Franklin and Allen.

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