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Eastman Chemical to Convert Indian Orchard Site to Natural Gas
SPRINGFIELD — Eastman Chemical Company intends to convert the coal-fired boiler at its Indian Orchard site, which it acquired as part of its acquisition of Solutia in 2012, to natural gas combustion by January 2016. (Solutia is a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman.) “Several factors have led to this announcement,” said David Lahr, plant manager for the Indian Orchard site, “including compliance with new regulatiory requirements, Eastman’s commitment to protecting local air quality, as well as the abundance of domestic natural gas at prices increasingly competitive with coal.” The Indian orchard site currently operates three boilers — two natural gas units and a coal fired unit. The conversion to natural gas will allow the Indian Orchard site to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent industrial boiler regulations, said Lahr. Several years before EPA finalized these regulations, Solutia discussed with the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection that the site was strongly considering a switch to natural gas combustion to meet its steam and electricity needs in order to comply with these regulations once they became final. Currently, the deadline by which Eastman must comply with these boiler regulations is Jan. 31, 2016.

STCC, WNE Sign Articulation Agreement for Online Business Program
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Western New England University (WNE) recently signed an articulation agreement to provide a coordinated online business degree completion program. The two colleges have been working together informally over the past few years to provide this opportunity to STCC and WNE students. However, the formal signing of this articulation agreement creates an opportunity for STCC students to transfer to Western New England University as a junior, but also allows these students to take classes online — providing them with more flexibility in how they earn their bachelor’s degree. STCC Dean of the School of Business and Information Technologies Leona Ittleman said she credits both STCC and WNE faculty for the work they have done to make this agreement between the campuses a reality. “Many of our best and brightest students transfer to Western New England University and receive the benefits of both colleges’ experience and dedication to student learning,” said Ittleman. “And having an online program is not only convenient for our students, but it also provides them with unlimited access to the resources of both campuses.”

Mass. BHE OKs Policy Change on Dorms at Community Colleges
BEDFORD — The Mass. Board of Higher Education (BHE) recently approved a policy change to allow consideration of campus proposals to build residence halls at any of the state’s 15 community colleges. The measure was approved on a unanimous vote at the Board’s last scheduled meeting of the year. BHE policy in effect since 1980 precluded consideration of residence halls at community colleges. The vote to change the policy establishes Massachusetts as the 40th state to permit the construction of student housing on community college campuses. Nationwide, 22% of community colleges offer student housing, mostly at medium-sized institutions located in rural areas. The concept is neither new nor novel; other states have more than 20 years’ experience in offering and managing student housing at two-year institutions. The overall percentage of community college students housed in residence halls, however, remains relatively small. “I want to stress that this is not a decision to initiate a program of student housing construction at community colleges,” said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Rather, this is a vote to be prepared to consider proposals in cases where they may enhance the educational experience of our students.” The department’s research indicates that residential life at community colleges has a positive impact on academic outcomes such as graduation rates. Students who live on campus are more fully integrated into college life, resulting in overall higher levels of academic achievement. A similar, positive association between dorms and academic achievement has long been substantiated at four-year colleges and universities. “Among all community colleges across the nation, we see a statistically significant association between the existence of student housing and increased graduation rates,” said Carlos Santiago, senior deputy commissioner for Academic Affairs at the Department of Higher Education. To date, only one Massachusetts community college has expressed public interest in a student housing proposal. Mount Wachusett Community College, located in Gardner, has indicated that it would investigate the feasibility of establishing a residential life program and facility.

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