Whoa Elley! New college has unexpectedly high turnout

BY Helaina N. Hovitz

The Financial District is now home to a private, 42,000 square-foot, two-year college as a result of a recession-induced demand for new career training.

Classes at Mildred Elley began on the evening of May 24. The school, primarily based in Albany for the past 90 years, offers health sciences and nursing programs, associates degrees in occupational studies for medical assistants, and certificate programs for nurses, clinical medical assistants and medical office assistants.

The staff was still in the process of setting up as the students began to arrive that first evening.

“We didn’t expect such a huge response right away. We thought we would have a slow crescendo, but it was more like an explosion,” said Faith A. Takes, president of Mildred Elley. Then again, the boom was partially expected. “A lot of people have been making career changes. We’ve been seeing 30 candidates a day for the school.”

Empire Education Corporation shelled out $2.5 million to make their new home the 16th floor of 25 Broadway for 105 students who enrolled this week. An additional 75 are expected to enroll every two months (the school has a rolling admissions policy), and the school’s president expects to educate 350 students by the end of the year.

The student body mainly consists of adults returning to the workforce, though some are already in the allied health field trying to upgrade their skills in order to receive future promotions. The average age of an Elley student is 29; the youngest student just 20 years old, the oldest, 55.

Empire Education Corporation began planning for the school in 2007, and though the school initially considered Poughkeepsie and Newburg as potential locations, the city became their clear choice almost immediately.

“I thought, why not go where the most people are, to a place where we know there are people in great need of training and a high demand for allied health occupations,” said Takes on the decision making process. After visiting dozens of locations in all five boroughs, the focus became Lower Manhattan, and the lease was signed in February.

Harry Krausman, managing director of Cassidy Turley, the real estate firm that worked with the school, said the three-month negotiation process was a bit turbulent, as Elley was bumped from the original floor they signed off on and had to redesign the space on the 16th floor to fit their needs. Still, said Krausman, the landlord was very receptive to the school, and despite encountering a few bumps in the road, Takes and Krausman remain confident that they had picked the right location.

“It was more economically attractive for [Takes] to relocate down by Wall St., where there are several competing schools, such as Claremont and B.M.C.C.,” said Krausman. “Not only is the rent cheaper, but there are municipal incentives, and Takes qualified for REAP benefits.”

“I really felt there was a certain vibe in Lower Manhattan, based on all the revitalization going on down here. There is a lot of action. It’s almost like a renaissance period in this part of the city,” continues Takes. “It’s the most up and coming area.”

As an added bonus, students enrolled at Elley may already have a leg up on the competition.

“Faith developed affiliations with different hospitals, so they are eager to have these nurse aids and medical technicians,” said Krausman. “She’s lined up several hospitals that will be receptive to hiring the students, or at least interviewing them, once they get their degrees.”

So far, 15 staff members are on board, but Takes expects that the number will grow to 40 by the end of the year. The school hopes to include an associates degree program in radiographic technology and offer degrees in massage therapy.