Gavilan Community College officials are looking for a higher and
better use for the 37 acres on its campus that currently host a
nine-hole golf course. It’s a good thing.
Gavilan Community College officials are looking for a higher and better use for the 37 acres on its campus that currently host a nine-hole golf course. It’s a good thing.
Currently, the golf course generates a paltry $35,000 a year from a lease that ends in October 2007. Gavilan President Steve Kinsella told reporter Kristen Munson that he prefers to use the site for faculty or student housing as a way to attract students from out of state and make it a “destination college.” Kinsella cites a lack of student housing a reason the school hasn’t achieved that status.
While that makes some sense on the surface, the question must be posed: Should housing be the first reason that Gavilan College becomes a “destination college.”
The best way to attract students is through the offering of top-notch educational programs, especially programs that aren’t widely available. This is the model that many other community colleges in our area have used to draw students, including a sizable number of community college students residing in Gavilan’s district.
Until Gavilan becomes a destination school for community college students in San Benito County, south Santa Clara County and areas beyond, it’s premature to aim for out-of-state or international students.
In addition, offering student housing adds a new layer of complexity to administering the college. This is a big challenge for a school that has never had dorms or extensive food services.
That’s not to say converting the golf course site to housing should be ruled out entirely. If there is a clear study that determines an overwhelming need among Gavilan’s current student population for housing, or a need for affordable faculty housing to attract quality instructors, then the idea should be debated.
But Gavilan officials should consider a wide range of alternative uses.
Should the site be used for classroom space to create and expand partnerships with four-year schools like San Jose State University, for example? What about a bio-tech feeder partnership with UC Merced or Cal State University Monterey Bay with an appropriate new facility?
Certainly that would make far better sense than considering, for example, the Uvas Valley area.
Should the site be used to replace decrepit facilities? Is the school in a position to offer compelling new programs that could be accommodated at the golf course site? What use would generate the most income for Gavilan?
Officials are rightly considering what to do with the golf course site well ahead of the end of the current lease. They should not narrow the list of options prematurely, and they should consider every angle when studying the issue.
It’s programs, not dorm rooms, that attract students to two-year community colleges. That should be the focus.