If you build it, the students will come

– Gavilan College will enroll nearly 9,000 students by 2010 and
will need a second campus within the next 10 years, preferably
north of Morgan Hill, according to a consultant for the
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Gavilan College will enroll nearly 9,000 students by 2010 and will need a second campus within the next 10 years, preferably north of Morgan Hill, according to a consultant for the college.

A growth analysis of the Gavilan Joint Community College District, which spans from central San Benito County north to the Coyote Valley in south San Jose, shows that by 2030, total enrollment at the college will triple from its current level, to 13,415 students. Most of the enrollment increase will come from north of Gilroy.

But that number can increase to 14,670 students if Gavilan can find a way to keep students from leaving its district to go to community colleges in San Jose or Santa Cruz – what are called free-flow losses – according to Spencer/Hoskins Associates and Public Private Ventures.

“I think the alarming thing to me is that we’re losing 31 percent of students who’ve already decided to go to community college,” Gavilan President Steve Kinsella said.

The 22-page growth analysis examined population growth in the South Valley, San Benito County and the Monterey Bay area by zip code, along with how much of the population is attending community college at either Gavilan or one of six other colleges in the area.

Slightly more than 31 percent of community college students who are living within the Gavilan district are driving to another college, or 2,248 students total. San Jose/Evergreen, West Valley/Mission and the Foothill/De Anza districts are attracting the most Gavilan-area students – about 600 each.

“It says that students who are going out of the district are choosing to drive a nice distance to go to community college,” said Jim Spencer of Spencer/Hoskins.

The good news, he said, is that other colleges are having the same sort of free-flow. They’re also losing students to Gavilan much like Gavilan is losing students to them. More than 400 students come to Gavilan from nearby college districts.

“We don’t need to convince residents in this area to go to community college – they’ve made that decision,” Kinsella said. “Our challenge is, how do we get them here, as opposed to somewhere else?”

Even with the free-flow, Gavilan will continue to grow large enough for two full campuses in the coming decade. The college already is looking to build a campus on the north end of its district in anticipation of the Coyote Valley development and expected 80,000 residents.

Currently, 40 percent of Gavilan’s 6,682 students come from Gilroy, 33 percent from Hollister, 20 percent from Morgan Hill and the remaining 7 percent from outside the district.

Immediate population and enrollment growth will be in the north part of the district, the report indicates, and Spencer said Gavilan should put its second campus as far north as possible – ideally, at Bailey Avenue. By 2010, 3,069 students from Morgan Hill, San Martin and Coyote Valley will be enrolled in Gavilan, compared with 2,999 from Gilroy and 2,629 from San Benito County.

But it’s Hollister that has the greatest long-term growth potential Spencer said.

To keep up and even improve upon enrollment projections, Gavilan will need to determine why potential students are attending other colleges, Spencer said.

Larger campuses offer more diversity, more scheduling options, different programs and activities.

The college already is considering switching to a 16-week calendar, used by most other community colleges, which would allow scheduling of longer block classes on fewer days. For example, more classes would meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, or Mondays and Wednesdays only. The option likely would be attractive to the many community college students who balance school with full-time or part-time employment, Kinsella said.

Spencer noted some other factors that work to Gavilan’s disadvantage: Its main campus is hidden away from the freeway; students coming from Hollister need to backtrack to get to the Gilroy campus; and a lack of air conditioning – which he called “amazing” – discourages afternoon classes.

But because the college now knows how many students are traveling to other districts for classes, Kinsella said it may be easier to focus on attracting them to Gavilan rather than getting more people to take classes in the first place.

“Surely, we have a lot of room to grow, just with the population we have now and that’s (something) that a lot of other colleges can’t say,” Kinsella said.