Investigating housing at Gavilan makes sense

As president of Gavilan College, I have come to appreciate the
opinion of The Dispatch as it provides an insight into the concerns
of the community.
As president of Gavilan College, I have come to appreciate the opinion of The Dispatch as it provides an insight into the concerns of the community. The recent editorial opposing the creation of college-affiliated housing on the site of the Gavilan College Golf Course raised some interesting questions, both about the value of such housing and the quality of Gavilan College’s educational programs. I’d like to address the second question first.

There is a persistent and inaccurate perception (unfortunately reinforced by the editorial) that Gavilan College does not offer programs and services of the same quality as neighboring colleges. In fact, we do. Gavilan College has the same Transfer Articulation Agreements as De Anza, Foothill, West Valley and Mission, and an even higher percentage of students transferring to universities than Cabrillo and Hartnell.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has consistently awarded Gavilan College its highest-level, six-year accreditation. Graduates from our respected vocational programs, such as nursing, aviation, and law enforcement, are consistently in high demand by employers. Recent and ongoing improvements, such as on-line classes, block scheduling, and the conversion to a 16-week semester offer students more choices and flexibility in their educational programs. The new Transfer Institute and upcoming partnerships with local high schools will streamline the transfer process and help students get ahead.

One issue that we cannot solve by changing how courses are offered or by adding new programs, however, is the lack of affordable housing in our area. In the past four years, our student newspaper, the Rambler, has run two articles documenting student housing problems. Some students live on friends’ sofas. Some students work so many hours at low-wage jobs to pay rent that their schoolwork suffers. Still others have been forced to discontinue their studies and leave the area altogether. We have lost college staff as well due to housing problems and had difficulty attracting candidates for employment because they could not afford to move to the area.

It is reasonable to consider student and faculty housing among the best options for the golf course land. The housing option provides substantial benefits, not the least of which is a source of non-state funding that could be used to add resources to our educational programs.

The foremost advantage of student housing, however, would be that our students would have an option for affordable housing and the ability to attend school full time. With a larger full-time student base, Gavilan College will be better positioned to create new program offerings, add a greater variety of classes and offer more high-level classes.

In addition, affordable student housing is a competitive advantage that would allow Gavilan College to offer a full university-like lifestyle in a safe student-oriented environment. Finally, the availability of student housing can be used to attract out-of-state and international students, thereby enriching the diversity of the college’s learning environment and bringing in another significant new source of revenue. (International and out-of-state students pay $193 per unit compared to $26 for California residents.) Santa Monica College receives millions of dollars each year from out-of-state students.

There is one more housing component under consideration: an on-campus residential community for active adults (over age 55) who seek educational, social and recreational programs and the association with a college campus environment. California provides funding for community colleges to offer non-credit programs for seniors, instituted this year as the Living Through Learning program. Our research indicates there will be a market for this type of housing in Gilroy in the near future.

We will continue our investigations into the best uses for the golf course land, and to provide complete and accurate information to trustees before the Board is asked to make a decision about this important resource and how it will be used to best serve the community.

Guest columnist Steven Kinsella is the President of Gavilan College. Anyone interested in writing a guest column may contact Editor Mark Derry at 842-6400.

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