SAN DIEGO — A preliminary consultants' report on the need for a San Diego State University branch in the north county area recommends construction of a full-service, four-year institution rather than the two-year satellite campus favored by the state system's board of trustees.
Citing admittedly "conservative" estimates forecasting a north county population of nearly 1.3 million by 2010, the report concludes that a branch campus could enroll 21,640 students by the same year--enough to sustain a full-service operation.
Furthermore, the report cites interviews with local business leaders in suggesting that limiting the center to a two-year, upper-division and postgraduate program could "handicap" the north county's ability to produce students adequately trained to meet the needs of the area's burgeoning high-tech industries.
SDSU officials and supporters of an expanded north county presence for the university heralded the study's findings as scientific proof of what has been obvious to casual observers for some time: The region is booming and deserves a full-scale campus to replace its existing SDSU center, located in a San Marcos industrial park.
"If the numbers are correct, and I have no reason to believe that they aren't, then I think they speak for themselves," said Albert Johnson, vice president for academic affairs at SDSU. "With a future population like that, I can't imagine anyone suggesting that north county could get along with a two-year campus."
State Sen. William Craven (R-Oceanside), who last year authored legislation providing $250,000 for the consultants' study, agreed: "No man or woman of common sense can look at these numbers and not conclude we need a four-year school up there."
But the report, by consultants Tadlock and Associates of Carmel and San Diego-based Deems/Lewis & Partners, has received a somewhat different reception at California State University headquarters in Long Beach. Deputy Provost John Smart called the study "incomplete" and "very preliminary."
"There are several areas here, like the methodology used to come up with these enrollment numbers, that have to be reviewed with the consultants," Smart said. "This is by no means a complete report."
Smart declined to elaborate or comment on the report's recommendation that a four-year campus be built. He said the consultants' final report would be presented to the Board of Trustees at a meeting in March. A second study, to determine a site for the campus, has yet to begin.
Craven has been working for years to convince state university leaders and the Legislature of the need for a north county campus. In 1968, he pushed unsuccessfully for legislation creating a new campus; a decade later, he helped secure a small state grant that enabled the satellite center to open.
Enrollment at that center has bounded upward in recent years, increasing 79% last fall over the previous fall semester. More than 700 students now take upper-division classes there, said Richard Rush, the center's director.
But course offerings are few, and pupils in some majors must attend some classes at the main SDSU campus on Montezuma Mesa--45 minutes away. That campus is the most seriously overcrowded of any in the 19-school system. University officials said SDSU will have to turn away more than 1,000 students seeking admission this year.
In January, state trustees approved criteria for the establishment of permanent, off-campus, upper-division centers in Contra Costa, Ventura and San Diego counties. That action, Johnson said, made it clear that the trustees favored construction of two-year satellite branches, although in the case of SDSU, the possibility of transition to a four-year campus was discussed.
The report, however, concludes that the population projection for San Diego County, and particularly the north part, "dictates a full-service campus . . . rather than an off-campus center."
Using San Diego Assn. of Government base data, the consultants predict that nearly 1,273,000 people will live in a "north county service area" bounded by Del Mar, Poway, San Clemente, Rancho California and Interstate 15. To figure the potential student enrollment, the consultants took 1.7% of that population--the ratio of people expected to attend a state university in a given area.
In addition, the consultants figure that an additional 1 million people will live in San Diego County by 2010, for a total population of 3.2 million. That growth will continue to strain the mother campus, making for fewer spaces for north county residents.
"I was expecting big numbers, but these are surprising," Johnson said. "What they tell us is that north county certainly cannot serve as an escape valve for (San Diego). They are their own region. The demand is there."
Johnson said the consultants' report is likely to "cause waves" when presented to the trustees because "they have really underestimated the kind of growth we're experiencing down here."