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SDSU committed to campus in Brawley

June 09, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — San Diego State University officials told a gathering of Imperial Valley government and education leaders Friday they are committed to opening an off-campus center in this city.

However, university officials also said it could take years — the most optimistic estimation being five years — to obtain state funding to build a permanent campus.

In the meantime, they said, plans are under way to open a temporary campus in Brawley by the spring 2003 semester.

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Already, it was announced Friday, the university has set aside $150,000 in its budget for lease and maintenance of a facility for the upcoming academic year, funding expected to be set aside each year until a permanent campus is built.

Still, there is some uncertainty about all future finances in light of the state's $23.6 million budget shortfall and whether it could have an effect on the opening of a temporary campus.

The temporary campus will open, "short of a catastrophe," SDSU officials said.

Local leaders wanted to hear that SDSU and the California State University system are committed to the project.

That is the case, according to SDSU representatives Sally Roush, vice president of business and finance; Ethan Singer, associate vice president for academic affairs for the university; and Khosrow Fatemi, dean of the SDSU Imperial Valley campus in Calexico.

The panel was joined by Phillip Garcia, representing the CSU Chancellor's Office in Long Beach.

University officials said a second off-campus center will be necessary as an enrollment study indicates the demand for classes will double over the next 10 years.

They said with the SDSU, Imperial Valley campus landlocked, a second facility will have to be built somewhere else, and the North County is the best choice to attract students from that area who might otherwise not attend a university or leave the Valley to do so.

"Our job is to figure out how to fund it," Roush told those gathered at the Stockmen's Club in Brawley.

She said it will be a challenge to obtain funding for a permanent campus, adding there likely will be no state capital funding for the project for at least the next four to five years.

Capital funding would come from state bonds approved by voters, and before a North County campus could qualify for such funds, a temporary campus in Brawley would have to have about 500 full-time equivalent students.

Even if the project does qualify for state funding, it would have to compete for funds with other projects in the CSU system.

However, other funds could be sought.

Roush said SDSU could search for federal funds, request private donations and consider revenue-sharing plans in which the land upon which the permanent campus is to built could be used by a temporary tenant who would pay for use of the property.

The permanent campus is expected to be built on land just east of Brawley that has been offered to SDSU at no cost by the Alamitos Land Co., which owns more than a thousand acres in the North County.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between that company and SDSU that has allowed studies to move forward.

One such study is an environmental impact report. The first phase of the EIR focusing on the surface area has been completed, and work is expected to begin soon on the second phase of the study, which will focus on the subsurface.

Roush said sometime before January, SDSU expects to make a recommendation to the CSU chancellor that the Alamitos Land be accepted for the campus project.

She said she expects the chancellor would accept that recommendation and the issue could be taken to the CSU Board of Trustees for a vote in January.

At that time the search for funding will begin.

SDSU officials said as part of the effort to show the need for a second off-campus center in the Imperial Valley, it is imperative that local schools and leaders find some way to increase the number of students pursuing a higher education.

"That is the challenge," Singer said, to persuade students to pursue a higher education. "We have to inspire kids; give them a vision for the future."

Fatemi said he is optimistic about the time it will take to build up a student presence in the North County — a move that could expedite the effort to bring funding for a new campus.

He said the North County residents make up about 12 percent of the off-campus center student population in Calexico, while Calexico-area residents total about 40 percent of the campus' student population. The central region — El Centro, Holtville and Imperial areas — make up 46 percent of the student population.

Fatemi said of the smaller numbers from the North County, "The only reason for the discrepancy is lack of access."

He said the North County campus — even a temporary facility — will bring a sharp increase in the number of students from that area attending SDSU. By 2005, he said there could be 350 full-time equivalent students and by 2005, 500 students.

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