With the new state budget deal sent to the governor for his signature, Western Michigan University has received authorization from the state to begin work on a 67,000-square-foot addition and renovation program for its the College of Aviation.

ThinkStock; Carlos Santa Maria

The state budget includes authorization for the WMU project that is expected to cost $20 million, with $15 million from the state and the balance raised by the University. The project is focused on a complete renovation and addition to the college's Aviation Education Center, which is located on the college's W.K. Kellogg Airport campus in Battle Creek.

With a target completion date of summer 2019, the enlarged and renovated space will allow the college to grow enrollment in a way that will meet predicted job demand for aircraft pilots and avionics equipment professionals. When complete, the facility will include additional classroom space, upgrades to existing composite and paint labs, a state-of-the-art simulation facility and a cutting-edge research center, as well as student briefing rooms and faculty office space.

"Our aviation college has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the nation's top collegiate aviation programs," says WMU President John M. Dunn. "This thoughtful decision by the Legislature means we will be able to continue to expand our facilities to meet the growing needs in the industry for well-prepared professionals."

WMU's College of Aviation is among the oldest in the nation, beginning in 1939 and has evolved from a single program to a full academic college. It has been operating from the Kellogg Regional Airport since 1997 and is the only comprehensive collegiate aviation program in the state.