Construction on South Louisiana Community College’s new academic building is expected to begin this summer, and students could move into the new building by fall 2016.

The college celebrated the start of the $17.1 million project and the $2.1 million in community donations that kept the project on track during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Lafayette campus.

The project “signifies a true community partnership in building the workforce,” said SLCC Chancellor Natalie Harder.

The project is part of more than $250 million in community and technical college projects planned across the state that were approved by the Legislature in 2013 with the caveat that each college raise 12.5 percent of construction costs.

SLCC was able to raise its needed $2.1 million.

“This community wasted no time in saying: ‘Wow, you can look at about $10 million in additional salaries and tuition savings from a one-time $2.1 million investment? We’re in,’ ” Harder said.

Then, she recognized those community partners who contributed to help the college meet its $2.1 million goal: Lafayette Parish School System, Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, Lafayette Consolidated Government, Cox Communications, Schumacher Group, MidSouth Bank, Sleep Management, Whitney Bank and an anonymous donor.

The 63,000-square-foot, three-story Health and Sciences Building will front Bertrand Drive and be constructed in front of the existing Ardoin Building on the Lafayette campus.

The building will feature a virtual hospital for training opportunities, classrooms, lab space and an auditorium. The college’s new registered nurse training program that started last fall will anchor the building. The registered nurse program started with a $500,000 boost from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the city’s three major hospital groups: Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, Lafayette General Health, and Regional Medical Center of Acadiana and its sister institution, Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

A portion of the $150,000 contributed by each of the three major hospital groups will help create three endowed professorships, each named for a contributing hospital.

The professorships will help ensure “we have excellent faculty leading each classroom,” Harder said.

The project and the registered nursing program will help meet the area’s health care workforce needs, said Kathy Bobbs, president and CEO of Regional Medical Center of Acadiana and its sister hospital, Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“It comes after a long period of time where there was a huge outcry from our community and students to train locally,” Bobbs said.

The new building is also a boon for the school system because it creates additional space within SLCC’s existing campus to expand the Early College Academy, a high school housed on SLCC’s campus where Lafayette Parish public school students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma in tandem with an associate’s degree.

The Lafayette Parish School Board contributed $1 million to the project based on the ability to expand opportunities for its students at Early College Academy.

Harder said the college will be able to eventually quadruple the number of academy students its able to serve in partnership with the school system.

The current enrollment at the school is now 250 students, and the project will enable the college to enroll up to 1,000 Lafayette Parish school students in the future.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.