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For L.A.-area colleges, some freeway publicity

Caltrans says schools — nonprofit and for-profit — can apply for freeway directional signs. To qualify, campuses generally must have at least 1,000 students.

July 29, 2012|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Signs along the eastbound Ventura Freeway at the Reseda Boulevard offramp in Tarzana advertise Columbia College Hollywood and HMI College of Hypnotherapy.
Signs along the eastbound Ventura Freeway at the Reseda Boulevard offramp… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

In a class catalog, it probably would be listed as "College Promotion 101."

That's what it looks like along U.S. 101 in the western San Fernando Valley, where a proliferation of large directional signs point the way to local colleges and vocational schools.

In all, school operators have managed to get 36 of the green signs placed along a seven-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway in Tarzana and Woodland Hills. It's the largest cluster of college directional signs in the Los Angeles area.

The most recent school receiving the recognition is the Hypnosis Motivation Institute. The institute boasts four signs — two next to freeway approaches to Reseda Boulevard and two more on the boulevard's east- and westbound offramps.

The signs join markers for Columbia College Hollywood — a four-year film school — Cal State Northridge, Pierce College, the West Valley Occupational Center, the San Fernando Valley College of Law, Phoenix University, California Lutheran University, and the Hughes Education and Career Center.

In all, about 35 Los Angeles-area colleges each have four freeway directional signs. It's easy to see why they want them: "There's a sense of pride in having a freeway sign," said Alan L. Gansberg, dean of Tarzana's Columbia College Hollywood. "It legitimizes you."

Caltrans engineers say their rules allow public and private post-secondary schools — both nonprofit and for-profit — to apply for freeway directional signs.

To qualify, campuses generally must have at least 1,000 full- or part-time students, said Maria Raptis, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation. Schools pay a $7,500 fee to cover the 13-foot-by-51/2-foot signs' manufacture and installation. Caltrans pays for ongoing maintenance.

The newest member of the West Valley cluster, the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, has classrooms on the third floor of a Ventura Boulevard office building and offers a one-year training program.

George Kappas, director of the nonprofit college, said he applied for a Caltrans sign after noticing that other schools had them. But Caltrans administrators, who have rejected some school-sign proposals, say the request was not a slam-dunk.

"We had several conversations over the hypnotherapy school," Raptis said. The discussion centered on the institute's enrollment totals, not the subject that is taught there, she said.

Kappas said the institute was pleased by Caltrans' decision. "It took me a year and a half to get those signs," he said. "Have the signs helped? Yes."

bob.pool@latimes.com

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