Columbia State Community College, with nine campuses across five counties in the region, opened its latest campus in June, in Williamson County.

And with the debut of the new campus, student numbers are increasing.

Dr. Janet Smith, Columbia State’s president, and Dr. Shanna Jackson, associate vice president, Williamson Campus, spoke Friday morning at Williamson, Inc’s monthly Public Affairs Round Table about the school’s growth, the county’s growth and how CSCC really is a community college in more than every sense of the word.

The first campus opened 50 years ago, and the first Williamson campus opened nearly 30 years ago. Now total enrollment is 5,500 and growing, with more than half full-time students.

The counties they live in are very diverse in economics and education level, said Smith. But what they have in common is a need for higher-education.

“We provide for those who have difficulty getting to an educational institution,” she said. “We extend out to meet the educational need of southern Middle Tennessee.”

When CSCC first extended into Williamson County, it started small, with its first classes being held in space at the Independence Square shopping center on the corner of Hillsboro Road and Del Rio Pike.

It soon moved into the Yates Building in Franklin, but it was only a matter of time before that, too, couldn’t cover enrollment needs.

“We outgrew the first Franklin campus many years ago, and we had been on the waiting list for a new campus since 1999 or 2000,” Jackson said.

Now more students- 1,600- on the rolls live in Williamson County than even Maury County- 1,200- where the school is headquartered. And that number, Smith and Jackson estimate, will only increase with the newly-christened campus.

“It is a matter of keeping up with growth, and knowing that we needed more space,” said Jackson.”So we have been waiting for this.”

They were not waiting idle, but working with the community to make it happen.

“I need to point out that this new campus could not have happened without the community, from the city to the county to individuals,” said Smith.  “And to Community Health Systems.”

CHS donated $1 million to get the project under way.

“We had to raise 10 percent of the facility costs, and it had to come from the community,” she said.

The cost of the entire project billed in at $46 million.

“We wanted a campus that honored the heritage that Williamson is so noted for, but also looked to the future,” said Smith. “And we think we accomplished that.”

The community at large shares the accomplishment- and its benefits.

“This really reflects well on the community, just like with the Franklin Theatre downtown, because we decided to come together as a community and say education is important, we are going to invest in it and it really goes to the character of what this community is and what we value,” Matt Largen, Williamson, Inc CEO, said.