Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Discretion — the better part of education?

With the state budget mess keeping many schools from making long-term plans, it's really no surprise that the San Joaquin Delta College trustees chose to put off permanent work at the Mountain House south-county campus. When actual instruction starts at the MH site, it'll be in portable buildings.

There are several factors at play here, most notably:

1. Money is short
This one's obvious. State funding is up in the air, trustees can't figure exactly how much they'll have to cut from budgets and the Measure L bond money is running out because of past delays and poor decisions.

2. Need is changing
A south-county campus would be a boon for Mountain House and, to a lesser extent, Tracy and the rest of the south county. However, more and more students are choosing to take their classes online, and the need for a community college campus in Mountain House will not be truly great until that community builds out — something that's been delayed by the housing crunch. While a MH campus would still be more useful for Tracy students than the Stockton campus, trustees can somewhat justify putting work at MH on hold for now.

3. Minds aren't made up
Even though financial facts seem to indicate Delta College is committed to Mountain House for the site of the south-county campus, statements in the 2008 campaign indicate that even some trustees are not 100 percent convinced that Mountain House is the best place for the school.

So the move is understandable. But it also sucks.

People in Mountain House were promised a permanent campus. The town was designed with the college in mind as an anchor and selling point. The folks who decided to call it home and actually try to build a community in what's now a less-than-glorified suburb deserve to have that promise fulfilled.

Even though school President Raul Rodriguez insisted that "We’re not recommending abandoning Mountain House," it's easy to understand if Mountain House folks feel nervous about the recent news.

What's even more disconcerting is to hear that Measure L bond money will be directed away from the south-county campus, to be used for other projects. As stated before, there are real reasons for this, but voters passed this $250 million behemoth because they were promised certain things, chief among them a satellite campus to serve Tracy and Mountain House.

It certainly seems, at best, that the MH project is being put on the back burner. Maybe that's the reality of our situation, but it's also another broken promise.

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