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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

CSUCI Receives $10 Million in State Budget

Education: The money, which had been in jeopardy, will allow school to hire faculty and design academic programs..

May 13, 2000|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Gray Davis announced Friday that he has included $10 million for Cal State University Channel Islands in his new budget, a move that will ensure the Ventura County campus opens on schedule in the fall of 2002.

County legislators were told late Friday that the money will be set aside in the governor's revised spending plan, which is scheduled to be unveiled Monday.

Davis had rejected the funding request earlier this year, telling CSU officials they needed to make more progress on development of a campus in Stockton before he funneled money to the local campus near Camarillo.

But university officials said this week they had addressed most of the issues at Stockton, clearing the way for Channel Islands to receive the $10-million allocation and stay on track to become the county's first independent four-year public university.

"This is a major commitment from the state of California to continue the progress that has been made at Cal State University Channel Islands," said state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo), a longtime booster of the campus under development at the former Camarillo State Hospital complex.

"This is one more step in the process, and it's a significant step," he said. "It's a big day in the history of Ventura County."

The money--which will establish an annual operating budget for the Channel Islands campus--allows university officials to hire key faculty to craft the academic programs that will serve as the foundation for the new campus.

Channel Islands President Handel Evans said Friday he will immediately launch the hiring process for about two dozen faculty planners who will be responsible for defining the university's curriculum and designing programs of study for each degree.

"I think it's terrific and I think this is money well spent," Evans said. "The $10 million is another rung in our ladder, which has gotten us to our first plateau--the financial foundation for the future of this university."

University officials had hoped to start the academic planning process sooner, but Davis dashed those plans by tying funding for Channel Islands to development of the Stockton satellite campus of Cal State Stanislaus.

Although the governor said he was fully committed to providing additional funding for Cal State Channel Islands, he said he wanted CSU officials to figure out what went wrong with efforts to establish a range of income-generating ventures aimed at offsetting operating costs at the Stockton campus.

Davis linked the campuses because of their similar development plans.

In both cases, CSU officials are converting closed mental hospitals into college campuses. Both are now satellite campuses of Cal State universities. And both are counting on leasing unused buildings and launching commercial ventures to help raise money for expansion.

But the similarities end there. Stockton will remain a branch campus of Cal State Stanislaus, while the Camarillo site--which opened last fall as a branch of Cal State Northridge--is expected to evolve into a full-fledged institution by fall 2002.

Moreover, the Stockton campus has made little headway on its plan for tapping private development, while the Camarillo site has signed several private tenants, drawn up a blueprint for development around the campus core and established a nonprofit agency responsible for luring commercial ventures to the 630-acre property.

Now that the additional money has been included for CSU Channel Islands, the allocation--along with the rest of the budget--will still have to undergo review by the state Legislature before Davis grants final approval.

However, both O'Connell and Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) say they will do everything they can to ensure the $10 million remains in the budget.

"I think a project of this quality speaks for itself and I'm confident that the money is going to stay in the budget," Jackson said. "We've envisioned a CSU campus in Ventura County for many years. Now we have the location, we have the plan and we've got the vision to make it a reality."

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