December 7, 2004 > Ohlone College Update
Ohlone College Update
Ohlone College President Douglas Treadway talks about the challenges facing the Fremont campus and the new Newark facility.
Dr. Douglas M. Treadway, Ph.D. assumed the role of President/Superintendent of Ohlone Community College District on July 1, 2003. Dr. Treadway previously served as President/Superintendent of Shasta College in Redding, California for 9 years. He has also held positions as Chancellor of the North Dakota System, President of Southwest Minnesota State University and President of Montana State College.
TCV: What are the current challenges facing California community colleges and specifically, those for Ohlone College?
Treadway: We have one hundred seven community colleges and there are many differences between them. Some are small and rural or urban which are losing enrollment and others such as parts of the East Bay like Tracy and Livermore that are growing rapidly. There is quite a bit of difference between how they are funded and their growth patterns. We all share the dilemma of the state budget; we are all under-funded and have been looking at negative effects of cutting back on programs and enrollment in the last three years.
There is a little ray of sunshine that the drop in funding and enrollment will cease for a while and we will be able to recover a little bit. The primary story in California - Universities included - has been one of cutting back and not being able to serve the numbers we would like.
TCV: Has enrollment at Ohlone dropped?
Treadway: Yes. We have had an enrollment drop of about 3% this fall. We are making some of that up and feel that by the time we reach the end of our budget year we will be even or slightly ahead.
TCV: Do you attribute the drop to the economy, the curriculum or changes in viable career choices?
Treadway: We know for sure of three or four factors for Ohlone. We know that the number of computer classes offered is one third of what it was three years ago. The economic downturn in the computer industry has definitely hit us hard. People are not going into that field right now.
We also know that the 40% increase in fees has decreased enrollment of people taking one or two classes although there has not been as much of a drop in full-time students. Fremont high schools had four hundred fewer students this year. Some people are moving out of the Fremont/Newark area because of the economy.
Also, there has been massive confusion among university and college bound students over whether the University of California and California State University systems were diverting people to the community colleges. Many local students were given letters advising them to attend Ohlone College since there was no room for them at U.C." Just a couple of weeks before we opened, another letter was sent saying a deal was worked out and they could go to those institutions after all. People were confused and weren't sure where they would go to school. We are not sure how that impacted us, but students and parents are still trying to sort that out. Students graduating in June are wondering what the case will be this year.
If you take all of these factors (confusion, the state budget, the economy) into account, we are lucky to have had only a 3% hit.
TCV: Will the focus and curriculum at Ohlone change to adjust to these factors?
Treadway: We are responding, in part, by experimenting with a fifteen week rather than an eighteen week term. This doesn't sound a lot, but it starts after Labor Day so people can work full time over the summer; it's a more condensed process. We are talking about going to class a little longer each day - maybe an hour and a half rather than an hour.- to retain the same number of "contact hours" in the classroom.
We are planning new majors such as Environmental Sciences, Alternative Energy and others where new jobs are emerging including a brand new biotech program. Some of the faculty is being retrained out of Computer Science to other fields that with additional training will give them a strength that can shift their point of emphasis. We are adjusting.
In Health Sciences, we are increasing our enrollment in Nursing and looking at other areas in health and public safety. There are many needs that we could respond to if we had the funding. However, even with limited funding we are making some adjustments and trying to be more in tune with the communities we serve.
TCV: What about community partnerships?
Treadway: We have a partnership with Washington Hospital in our nursing program and Kaiser is helping with a respiratory therapy curriculum. There are about a dozen biotech firms that donated about $800,000 in equipment to our new biotech lab. This trend will continue with public entities and the private sector.
TCV: When will we see the Newark campus begin construction?
Treadway: It is planned for us to break ground in late summer - August or September - of 2005.
We are in the phase of planning where the construction drawings are being completed and we are getting ready to go out for bids in a couple of months. Because the state of California and the local college and school districts have done so much bonding in the last five years, there is a backlog of plans at the state architect for approval. Everyone is being delayed due to this logjam.
Another thing is a large increase of the cost of concrete and steel in the last 9 months in the world economy notably driven by China's use of these materials. These costs have changed budgets by 15 - 25%. Districts have to redraw their plans because of these increases.
The last thing is the environmental issues at the Newark site. There is toxic waste at that location; we have a federal grant on how to remove the agricultural pesticides from its previous use. That is an extensive soil removal project. We also have Burrowing Owls living on the property and need to devise a plan to mitigate the impact of the campus on their habitat.
All of these things take time and attention before you can start construction.
TCV: Will building the Newark campus be in phases?
Treadway: The facility is planned and will be built as a whole for the timeframe of ten to fifteen years. We plan to move onto the new campus in the fall of '07.
TCV: At one time, the City of Newark was involved with a joint library project on campus. That agreement was terminated by the city. Is there hope of reviving it?
Treadway: There has been no change on that. They [City of Newark] have pledged to cooperate with us and maybe even assist in expanding hours of service by possibly helping with staffing or some other means, but there will not be expenditure by the city for a library on our campus. There will be a learning resource center at the Newark campus and we have left a pad for an addition in the long term future.
TCV: Is any of the Newark property reserved for commercial development?
Treadway: No. There was not only objection from the City of Newark, but once part of the property use is changed from education to commercial, you come under the city planning ordinances. The 80+ acres was purchased under a bond called Proposition 39 which does not allow the property to have alternative uses while the bond is being paid off. The only scenario to allow commercial development would be to surplus the property to pay off the bond. You don't realize any gain from this. Commercial development is not in the cards for Newark. However, commercial development is very much in the cards for the Fremont campus.
TCV: Are portions of the Fremont campus being targeted for residential as well as commercial development?
Treadway: There is an active investigation - it hasn't been approved - of single family "executive" homes next to the vineyard housing tracts. On the lower part of the campus along Mission Boulevard, we are looking at a nice grocery store and some retail and possibly some office space.
There has been some discussion of housing for active adults on the hillside. We are getting ready to send proposals to developers in the next sixty days. We will wait and let the developers come back to us and tell us what will be profitable for them and beneficial to us. Once we have the proposals, we will meet with local businesses and residents to get their views before we take the next step. With the right mixture, there can be a compatible venture between the college, the local community and private developers.
Because the Fremont campus is on a hillside and in a compacted transportation corridor, we cannot expand much on this site. In Newark, there is more [usable] space and it is close to the freeway; our future expansion will be in Newark.
TCV: Will there be a division of curriculum between the two campuses?
Treadway: We are talking about being one college with two campuses. They will not be two separate colleges such as Chabot and Las Positas. There will be an emphasis at Fremont on university transfer curriculum and Newark on professional, vocational and technical courses. A common core of general college writing, math, science and social science classes will be held at both locations. Areas of concentration beyond the general subjects, by and large, would not be duplicated. For instance, if you were going into nursing, you would go to Newark; a chemistry class to qualify for nursing would probably be available at either campus.
TCV: Will there be college transportation between the Newark and Fremont campuses?
Treadway: Yes. We are working with public transit authorities and may work out a discount for student transportation. A shuttle will run on an hourly basis also transporting library materials and other items since we will not have every administrative service at both sites.
TCV: Will the Career Center remain at the Newark campus?
Treadway: Yes. It is a regional Career Center. Currently Newark night classes have moved to the high school and we are renting space at the University of Phoenix for day classes. This is a "staging exercise" for the new campus. Our enrollment has gone up as we did this in preparation for the Newark campus. It is at these sites that we are doing an experimental fifteen week registration.
TCV: Any other comments?
Treadway: We have hired twenty-two new faculty and feel that we are handling things well. We are looking forward to the New Year.