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New local campus to challenge LPC

By Charlene Serra

The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District is going to have a new neighbor moving into the “collegial neighborhood” within the next 5 years and this is proving to be a political hot potato.

This new campus, located in Dougherty Valley, is a part of the Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. Currently, the plans are for Dougherty Valley to offer an educational “center” that will have between 5,000 and 7,000 students, and for it to be developed on land within eight to nine miles of the Livermore campus.

Barry Schrader, a trustee on the Chabot-Las Positas College Board, said that the Livermore campus will be competing with the new campus for some of the same students.

“The board of governors for state community colleges districts in California has not, prior to this, placed new community colleges that close to existing facilities,” Schrader said. “They claimed that, since Dougherty Valley was going to be an education ‘center’ and not a full-service college, that it was just going to be an extension of Contra Costa Community College District.”

Although the state board of governors is trying to meet the projected growth in the valleys, Schrader pointed out that, unfortunately, this “violates the board’s policy of not building new colleges until the existing colleges are built out — in other words, until Las Positas College has completed its master plan. We still plan to build a field house, gym, and more classrooms.

“The growing population could be accommodated by the existing community college — Las Positas — which is within 10 miles of the newly planned college. This is a sad waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Las Positas’ President Susan Cota explained that the way colleges are developed is related to boundaries. “Each community college has its own boundaries that are supposed to be served. We are supposed to serve Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and Sunol. It is kind of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that we do not take each other’s students.”

Cota said she was very concerned at first but “I don’t feel as threatened now as I did when the planning board for the new Dougherty Valley campus first started making their plans.”

“Initially, they were planning a huge college, but now, because of our input and our concerns, they have scaled back. I don’t feel as if it’ll be as much of a competitive school now.”

Cota added that Dougherty, which is planned to open in 4-5 years, will replace the Center for Higher Education in San Ramon.

Some of the professional staff from Las Positas met with some of the staff from the new campus and that meeting produced some positive results. “We are thinking of doing things collaboratively — offering classes together,” Cota said. The new college professionals “were planning on offering a couple of classes that we told them we already offer — classes on emergency medical technology and administration of justice. So when we shared that information with them, they said that they would not offer those classes now.”

Cota pointed out that Las Positas has already offered a Spanish language class with the Center for Higher Education, which is part of Diablo Valley College in the Contra Costa Community College District.

“In fact, neither campus had enough students to offer a class by itself and normally, we would have to cancel the class because of not enough students,” said Cota. “So we offered a tele-course and had one teacher for the students from both campuses.”

“It is true that we cannot offer every class that a student needs by a certain time,” said Cota “but I would rather see a student go somewhere to get the class he needs rather than wait around for the class to be offered here later.”

“There are plenty of students to go around for all of us,” Cota said, “so I don’t get too upset. Other than the fact that we might offer classes together, there won’t be much of a connection — except that we will be close by.” As a result, she said, “I don’t feel as if it’ll be as much of a competitive school now.”

Schrader said he and President Cota have different views about the new campus being established. “Susan sees it as a ‘win-win’ situation where the two campuses can work together on joint programs and joint offerings. But I see it as if they are just making promises now so they can get approval to build the campus, and the Contra Costa Community College District will ignore us once they get the campus under way. I just don’t trust them.”

Since most community college funding is based on the college equivalent of public schools’ average daily attendance, there is likely to be a drop in funding for Las Positas, pointed out Schrader.

“We are going to watch the Dougherty Valley development very carefully and make sure that it is done within the guidelines set up by the state,” Schrader said. “We want to make sure that Las Positas gets its fair share of funding for our campus before funding is granted to Dougherty Valley.”

“The next five to six years are going to be very challenging,” he added.

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