Friday afternoon city leaders throughout the Coachella Valley met with a team of consultants contracted by the California State Legislature. They discussed several different options at stake, including the potential for a full-fledged 4-year university to transform the existing CSU San Bernardino extension campus in Palm Desert.
"My opinion is that CSU, Cal State and the state are ethically, morally and legally obligated to make this campus here in the Coachella Valley," Palm Desert City Councilman, Sabby Jonathan said.
Jonathan was one of many leaders attending a meeting to discuss the option of bringing a 4-year Cal State University campus to the Coachella Valley. Leaders weighed in, presenting their arguments to the team of consultants on why having a full-fledged university in Palm Desert is necessary. One of the points argued is that it is a particularly difficult financial burden for students coming from the East Valley. Some do not have cars. Students who do have a means of transportation must drive several miles, and cannot sacrifice having to cut work hours. The cost of gas is also a concern.
"When you look at the 5 sites under consideration, we are the only site that does not have a Cal State campus within 60 miles, Jonathan said.
Other locations being considered are San Mateo County, Chula Vista, Concord and Stockton.
"The City of Palm Desert gave Cal State University 170 acres, and it’s predicated on a written agreement that that campus will become a standalone campus. We have been waiting 26 years for that to happen-- since 1994, a quarter of a century. It’s our time," Jonathan said.
An extension campus of CSU San Bernardino is currently in Palm Desert. The question is whether it is realistic to have the campus transform into the 24th CSU campus.
"There’s $2 million that’s going to be used to evaluate the opportunities in Stockton. The other $2 million is going to be used to evaluate the other 4 candidates. Stockton was at one time a preferred location. One of our elected officials got in the mix and expanded opportunities, and now we have one of those opportunities," said Coachella Valley Economic Partnership CEO, Joe Wallace.
Wallace sat in on a meeting Friday morning and afternoon.
The team of consultants is ultimately weighing factors such as future student enrollment, workforce needs, and population growth in the event of a new campus or expansion on an existing school. Nothing is guaranteed to come out of the analysis.
"This is not a race between 5 and 1, is the winner. We can all win. Of course we can all get nothing too," Wallace said.
Another possible option could mean expanding on campuses that already exist.
"We could see an expansion financed by the state that could double our capacity to educate young people at the Palm Desert campus. In all fairness, that’s probably a good thing too," Wallace said.
The consultants are expected to present their findings to the CSU Legislature and the Governor's office by July 1st.