Monday, June 27, 2016

[Marin County] Marin IJ Editorial: Grand jury’s advice to IVC is needed

Since it was first opened as a stand-alone second campus in the early 1970s, IVC has fallen far short of its projected enrollment of 5,000 students.
In recent years, IVC’s enrollment has hovered around 1,200, mainly students involved in the vocational programs offered on the campus.
The grand jury says COM needs a detailed strategy for the campus — and it needs one soon.
In fact, the grand jury — a court-appointed panel of civic watchdogs — is recommending the college board complete such a strategy before the end of the year, which is probably overly optimistic.
The grand jury is worried the college lacks an articulated plan for the future of IVC and its buildings. Meanwhile, the campus is dotted with unused buildings that are costing taxpayers to repair, even when not in use.
The grand jury report was issued about a week after Marin voters approved a $265 million bond for fixing up buildings at the Kentfield and Indian Valley campuses. The grand jury concludes that IVC remains open because the community wants to keep it open.
In fact, a large portion of the bond is being allocated to fix up buildings and facilities at IVC.
IVC’s failure to meet its 1970s projections are due, the grand jury writes, to Marin County’s lack of growth and the academic draw of Santa Rosa Junior College’s fast-growing Petaluma campus. In recent years, enrollment has even declined at the Kentfield campus.
But keeping IVC open enables COM to provide programs without worsening traffic to and from the Kentfield campus. It also sidesteps the sticky political debate of what to do with the 333-acre property if the college were to sell the site.
Selling off the property to a developer would certainly be politically pyrotechnic. In fact, a short-lived proposal to turn part of the campus into a hotel with on-the-job training and housing for students interested in careers in lodging was a political nonstarter due to opposition from neighbors and city leaders.
COM’s recent partnering with the Novato Rotarians to turn an unused campus building into a community center is a building block, but far from a complete picture.
The campus now plays host to a variety of vocation-oriented programs, and COM officials say they are making progress in establishing cooperative arrangements with state universities to host courses toward four-year degrees.
That’s been tried before, but maybe this time a bachelor’s degree program will get rolling.
The grand jury is right; COM needs a well-articulated long-term strategy for IVC. It needs to reflect the community’s vision for the site with academic, vocational and recreational goals.
But it’s doubtful that can happen within the grand jury’s six-month time frame. Done right, including focus on community involvement and long-term finances, the task could take at least a year.
The COM board’s best answer to the grand jury’s recommendation is to get started.
June 25, 2016
Marin Independent Journal

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