City revives university dreams
by Jon Mendelson
Mar 08, 2013 | 2628 views | 6 6 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A long-dormant plan to attract a university to Tracy has apparently been revived.

On Friday, March 1, officials from California Lutheran University took a tour of Tracy with City Manager Leon Churchill and several local business leaders, hearkening back to a 2007 idea to bring several university extensions to the city as part of a college consortium.

That effort fizzled when the economic downtown bottomed out in 2008. But Churchill said Cal Lutheran’s visit has returned the idea to the forefront.

“I think we’re still looking at a variation of that (consortium),” he said Wednesday, March 6. “I think, long-term, the community will be greatly served by a handful of institutions.”

Right now, however, Churchill said city officials are talking with only Cal Lutheran — a private university affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

It has 2,804 undergraduate and 1,401 graduate students between its main campus in Thousand Oaks and satellite campuses in Oxnard, Woodland Hills and Santa Maria. The annual tuition is $33,910, according to its website.

Its strategic plan calls for university leaders to “develop new sites for graduate and non-traditional undergraduate programs to accommodate the planned enrollment growth” away from the main campus.

Karin Grennan, Cal Lutheran’s media relations manager, confirmed Monday, March 4, that university President Chris Kimball and board of regents Chairman Rod Gilbert were among those in town to consider Tracy as a location for a satellite campus.

She said it was the second time since the fall that university officials visited Tracy, though Grennan said they have not committed to anything.

“At this point in time, we’re not pursuing any kind of expansion in the Tracy area,” she said. “We’re exploring the possibility — we keep our eyes open for anywhere we can establish a presence.”

Churchill remained “cautiously optimistic” about the city’s chances to partner with Cal Lutheran.

Though there is no timeline for a decision, he said the repeat visit shows that “at some level there’s an emotional commitment to this community.”

Churchill also said the university’s “market research” to see how many people would attend a potential Tracy campus would likely reveal ample demand in and around Tracy.

He cited a 2012 Brookings Institution study that found that 36 percent of January and February job openings within San Joaquin County sought candidates with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree, but only 18 percent of the area’s total workforce had completed college.

“The type of economy and jobs that are coming require education in that level, but there aren’t enough people (with that type of degree),” he said. “The area with the biggest disparity of where the jobs are going to be and not having enough (educated) people is San Joaquin County.”

Churchill said a university in Tracy would fit “hand and glove” with the city’s economic development efforts and that Cal Lutheran’s slate of majors and programs align with anticipated areas of job growth in Tracy, especially health services and logistics.

It could also benefit the city in other ways, he said.

“There’s an economic argument for higher education, and some will give you a quality of life argument,” Churchill said. “Universities bring arts, culture, speakers series — all those things people in the community can enjoy, also.”

Whether or not Cal Lutheran settles on Tracy as its next satellite location, Churchill said it’s “highly likely” city leaders will continue to court college suitors.

“When you get one it makes it easier, because then you start looking at universities that complement what you already have,” he said. “But you need to start somewhere. You need an … anchor.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 835-3030 or jmendelson@tracypress.com.
Comments
(6)
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4dot0gpa
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March 13, 2013
I vote for 11th Street and Central. Nice central location.
code20
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March 14, 2013
4dot0gpa:

Where on 11th Street and Central Avenue? There is no room! For any college, there must be acres for parking and buildings and there is only one small lot on 11th Street and Central. Chrisman and 11th Street and the Outlet Mall are two of areas that have room. A college in town may be nice, but I don't see any place that has the room needed. Regardless, my point was we have the building and space at the Outlet Mall that is all but dead and as the City of Lathrop did, they put a university in there old mall and had classes going quickly. If a college wants to come to Tracy, we do not have time to wait for them to look elsewhere, get them in NOW!
code20
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March 11, 2013
45MPH

I understand your point, but I am not ready to “hope” that someday the city will get the desired stores you are talking about to come to Tracy. The Outlet Park is all but dead; at best, it’s on limited life support. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush as they say, let’s use property that has been built first, than when and if need be, we can build new! We can have our cake and eat it too with the universities using the Outlet Park and a campus by next school year. Whereas, it will take years to plan and build the campus on 11th street; which I agree would be one of several good places. “IF” the university works, let’s take our time, design and build a campus that is something to be proud of and will attract not only students, but other schools. There are several empty commercial storefronts out in the West Value Mall area that can be filled with the type of Outlet stores you are seeking. Let’s get them filled, thus killing two birds with one stone. The 11th street property will be used, but needs to be used wisely not just because we have it and its there.
code20
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March 08, 2013
This would be a great asset to Tracy. Let’s kill two birds with one stone; turn the dying Outlet mall into campuses. It worked for Lathrop where University of Phoenix took over their Outlet mall that died. Plenty or parking, plenty of classrooms and administration office space in various sizes and there is room to build out to the East when the time comes. Several different satellite colleges can be placed on one large campus. It also has easy access with I-205 and it’s rather quite out there. What a perfect place for colleges.
45MPH
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March 11, 2013
Agree.....great asset to add a consortium of higher educational opportunities to Tracy...however the outlet malls should not be considered. Build that up as retail, offer more high end stores and the shoppers will come. OUT with the crummy selection of outlets and retail substandard level stores we get in Tracy. Give us high end and we'll stay in town to shop. That area is to odiferous for a college-who could study with the horrible scent wafting in the air? City property....1th and Chrisman Road
code20
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March 08, 2013
This would be a great asset to Tracy. Let’s kill two birds with one stone; turn the dying Outlet mall into campuses. It worked for Lathrop where University of Phoenix took over their Outlet mall that died. Plenty or parking, plenty of classrooms and administration office space in various sizes and there is room to build out to the East when the time comes. Several different satellite colleges can be placed on one large campus. It also has easy access with I-205 and it’s rather quite out there. What a perfect place for colleges.


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