When San Joaquin Delta College’s Board of trustees voted to postpone plans to build a satellite campus in North San Joaquin County and pull the remaining
$15 million form Measure L funds on July 18, many Lodi residents were upset at what they viewed as a broken promise for a community college in their area.
Delta originally purchased land in Lodi with part of the $250 million from the Measure L bond, before selling the property and purchasing land in Galt, which the college still owns. No campus has been built, and the remaining
$15 million from the Measure L funds have been reallocated to help pay for projects on the college’s main campus in Stockton and satellite campus in Mountain House.
The News-Sentinel sat down with Delta College President and Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Hart (KH) and Assistant Superintendent and Vice President of Instruction and Planning Dr. Matthew Wetstein (MW) to discuss the reasons for postponing construction of a new satellite campus and reallocating the Measure L funds.
Q: What is Delta’s current enrollment, and how much of that is from the Lodi area (Clements, Lockeford, Woodbridge, Acampo, etc.)?
MW: We’re still tracking for the fall semester coming up, but we’ll probably have more than 17,000 students. In terms of north county, we’ll have maybe 2,500 from Lodi, Galt, Woodbridge, Acampo, Clements, that whole area.
Q: What is Delta’s graduation rate? How many graduates transfer to a four-year university? What are the most common universities?
MW: There are different ways of tracking graduation rates. The method we use tracks a cohort of students for six years who have entered the community college system for the first time and measures if they transferred, if the graduated with an associate degree, or if they finished transfer requirements. Our overall completion rate from spring 2016, which combines transfers and degrees, is 47 percent in a six-year period. The state average is 42 percent. We have a disproportionately high concentration of first-generation college students. 1,740 students transferred last year, and we expect between 1.300 and 1,400 to transfer this year. California State University Sacramento, Stanislaus and East Bay are the most popular CSUs, and University of the Pacific is the most common private university.
Q: What is Delta College’s mission statement?
KH: Our goal is to provide transfer, degree and certificate programs to the district’s residents and to participate in the economic development of the district.
Q: What would you like to tell Lodi residents who are disappointed in Delta’s decision to not build a north county campus?
KH: The first thing that I would want them to understand is that we intend, at some point, to provide the north county with excellent education for themselves and their children. We can’t foresee the future, but assuming that our enrollment turns around, that we begin to grow again, because that’s what being able to build something will depend on. I would want them to understand that we’re not abandoning them, we’re just delaying the kind of expansion that a center would mean, and instead trying to build the enrollment up in the north so that we have a critical mass of students to put into a brick-and-mortar center.
MW: The hard part right now is that we would not be getting any approval from the state to open a new center in a period when enrollment is declining. It’s a nonstarter to think that we could build a new campus anywhere right now, but it’s also the case that, at some point, housing patterns, demographic movement of people in California, that 99 corridor that Lodi sits on is one of those areas that should see a surge in growth at some point. Once you establish the kind of enrollment growth that Dr. Hart’s talking about, that ability to think about building a center comes into play, it’s not there now. The other part is we have to be able to spend the bond dollars in a certain time period. With Measure L, we would not be able to build a campus in the north county at any site within the time frame that Measure L has. As a practical matter, from the state level, we wouldn’t get approval, and as a practical matter of doing it within the time frame to spend the money, we couldn’t do it either. That became, I think, the driver for coming to the board and asking for the mover of the money back into the bond contingency.
Q: What is Delta doing to attract more students to existing classes in the north county area?
MW: There’s kind of a two- or three-pronged approach to think about it. One is that we’re offering more out there. The relationship with Galt School District and the ability to use the Etrallita site that they’ve allowed us to use gives us the opportunity to have some day classes up in the north county. It also gives us the opportunity to have night classes there. We’ve got about a dozen classes programmed for that site. We’re also doing the night courses at Lodi High School. We also have dual enrollment with high school students that are reserved only for the high school students in the Lodi district, and we’re at each of the major comprehensive high schools. One part is just providing the opportunity, the other part is getting them to the opportunity. There’s a really big marketing push on two levels: One is the social media presence that our marketing and outreach department is doing. We also have a new Dean of Regional and Distance Education, Martha Villareal, and a lot of what she’s trying to do is direct face-to-face marketing and the old-fashioned way of handing out materials at places like Wal-Mart, street fairs, any place where we can get invited to go.
KH: I think another thing that has to be said here is the extent of our offerings in distance education and online. We have 20 to 25 percent of our enrollments in fully online classes. We also have some hybrid classes, where they only meet in person, say, once a week, and do the rest online. We also have web-enhanced classes that have some online stuff but still meet the required number of hours. When I first came here in 1994, we didn’t have any online classes and we had a very significant evening population. For many reasons, I think, these online classes have become really attractive to people because they can do them whenever and wherever they want and they don’t have to go anywhere at night. People, I think pretty much everywhere are not all that comfortable going places at night. Our night program has been pretty hard to sell, and one of the problems, and I want to link this to what we offer in Lodi, because there isn’t a space in Lodi where we can offer classes during the day. We’re going to look at the World of Wonder on Friday and see about that one classroom, but the schools don’t have anything that they can rent to us so that we can have day classes.
Q: Why does Delta feel that it cannot build a satellite campus until it has 1,000 full-time enrollment students at the existing classes in the Lodi/Galt area?
KH: It’s actually 1,100, we say 1,000 because it makes it easier. This is a difference of philosophy from district to district. Our philosophy has been that our general fund cannot afford to support a center on its own. We have to have some help from the state. Well, the threshold for the state for providing operational dollars for a center is 1,100. That’s why, what we did in Mountain House was we’d been offering night classes in Tracy forever. We had a little building out there that CSU Stanislaus used to use and we moved it over near the district office in Tracy and we were able to offer classes during the day there At one point, we did the analysis and it became absolutely obvious to us that the only way that we could get the 1,100 students was to have them take their whole program at that center. What happens is, if you have a small center that has maybe three classrooms, is that if they go to it, and they have other classes on the main campus, the quickly figure out that they might as well just go there and stay there instead of going back and forth. That was why we configured that portable village the way that we did, so that we knew that we should be able to offer enough day and evening classes that we should get the 1,100 in that first year and we got almost 1,200. That was very well planned in terms of having the right sized rooms for the right classes that it filled up right away. You never get the money up front from the state, you have to support it for the first year. If you can meet that target, then next year you get it. The other aspect of that that people don’t seem to understand is that there must be a net growth in enrollment, you can’t just move students from one site to another.
MW: I think the misconception is that you have to be able to pay, not just for the faculty teaching courses, but for all the other staff working at that facility.
KH: And that’s an accreditation requirement, you can’t run a center without a whole compliment of staff.