They may not exactly be cheering, but officials at North County's three existing colleges say they support San Diego State University's expansion plans in the region.
In interviews last week, the presidents of Palomar and MiraCosta community colleges said that as long as SDSU officials attempt to cooperate with the two schools to ensure that there is no "duplication of effort," all will be well.
If the introduction of a new campus "is done in a coordinated fashion and with a cooperative spirit in mind, then I think it can be a positive thing for both the community colleges and the citizens of North County," Palomar President George Boggs said. "But we must make it a partnership and avoid the unnecessary duplication of expensive programs. Otherwise, we might see an unhealthy competition among the schools."
The chancellor of National University's North County branch in Vista, meanwhile, said his school "caters to a different crowd" and would likely feel only a minor enrollment impact when the new state campus opens.
"We don't seek the same type of client pursued by the state schools," National University Chancellor Marc Moore said. "Fifteen years ago, we opened just down the street from SDSU in San Diego. Now we're the second-largest university in the state. (Current enrollment is 14,000.) So I'm sure we'll coexist fine up here."
Moore conceded, however, that adding another campus to North County's so-called college row "may well have an impact on the very few students we do get coming right out of high school. Those kids might choose SDSU if the facility were here."
Because the new SDSU campus would initially offer only upper-division courses--for junior and senior students--its arrival on the North County front is seen as a plus to community colleges, which provide bachelor-degree aspirants with their general education requirements, then send them on to four-year institutions.
"It would be a real bonus and encourage our students to go on with their education if there were a four-year institution nearby," MiraCosta President H. Deon Holt said. "I think we'll see more people taking advantage of educational opportunities once the new campus is here."
Boggs, who recently arrived at Palomar from Butte Community College near Chico State University, said he attributed that school's higher-than-average transfer rate to its close proximity to a four-year institution.
But ultimately, state officials say, San Diego State's North County satellite will probably graduate into a full-service, upper- and lower-division university, offering many of the same courses available at the community colleges, and presumably a good number of classes that students can't get there.
At that point, "the potential for conflict will exist," Boggs said.
"I don't think sufficient students are out there now, but some people say the population expansion in the northern part of the county will eventually justify the additional lower-division courses. That remains to be seen. We can only hope that, as the campus expands its curriculum, it will continue to cooperate with us. Anything else just doesn't make sense for the taxpayers."
Another concern is the declining enrollments at the community colleges and the prospect that the various schools would be competing for a shrinking student population.
Just three years ago, Palomar had more than 17,000 students; last year that figure had dropped to 15,000, Boggs said. MiraCosta has had similar woes. Its full-time student enrollment dropped 17% this semester--to 7,443--from last fall's figure.
Although the declining numbers are worrisome, Boggs and Holt insist that enrollment levels have reached their lowest point. Furthermore, they argue that the students who are not attending the community colleges are not those who might choose to enroll at San Diego State instead.