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LOCAL UNIVERSITY A GRADUAL PROCESS CSU OFFICIALS SAYS DEMAND, LAND AND COMMUNITY BACKING NEEDED.

Byline: JIM SKEEN Staff Writer

LANCASTER -- Creating a full-fledged university campus in the Antelope Valley will be a gradual process requiring strong community support, an intense demand for service from students and a large chunk of land, civic leaders were told Friday.

In a summit on higher education hosted by the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, officials from the California State University system said that it will take community support and resources to bring a four-year campus to the region.

The region also needs to increase the numbers of students seeking four-year degrees to prove there is growing, sustainable demand for more higher-education services.

``While everybody wants that campus and wants it now, the real ability to be successful is to go step by step to build the foundation to get to that goal,'' said John Welty, president of California State University, Fresno.

The summit drew some 150 government and business officials and educators from around the Antelope Valley and from as far as Ridgecrest and the Victor Valley.

The summit was organized to kick off development of a master plan for regional higher education, with the ultimate goal being establishing a four-year university. The Board of Trade hopes to complete the plan in nine to 10 months.

The summit included advice from Gary Reichard, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the CSU system; Horace Mitchell, president of California State University, Bakersfield; Jackie Fisher, president of Antelope Valley College; David Vierra, superintendent of Antelope Valley Union High School District; and Welty.

CSUB's Mitchell offered his own campus as a case study for how to move toward establishing a campus. CSUB, which joined the CSU system in 1970, initially began as a satellite center for Fresno.

``The availability of land to create a campus is essential,'' Mitchell said. ``Bakersfield is on 375 acres that was on the outskirts. Now it's part of the fastest growing area of our community.''

Since at least the 1980s business and civic leaders have tried to attract a four-year university to the Antelope Valley, and now both CSU Bakersfield and CSU Fresno offer upper-division and graduate-level courses locally.

Local leaders say attending a four-year college is harder for Antelope Valley residents than for students in other parts of the state because of the distances involved. Antelope Valley students must either drive long commutes, or move to on or near campus, which is more expensive.

CSUB has begun offering degree programs in the Antelope Valley using a building on the north end of Antelope Valley College and classrooms at the Lancaster University Center. CSUB will include the idea of aiding in the creation of a separate Antelope Valley CSU campus as part of their strategic planning, Mitchell said.

Reichard said regional leaders must do more to encourage high school students to pursue a college education. More students need to be taking the appropriate course path for admission into the CSU and the University of California systems, he said.

``You need to communicate directly to the families the system for moving on into the UC/CSU system,'' Reichard said.

Reichard also said not enough local students are taking advantage of the Early Assessment Program, which provides students a chance to measure their readiness for college-level English and mathematics in their junior year of high school, and to facilitate opportunities for them to improve their skills during their senior year.

Fisher and Vierra said they are working together on a plan aimed at getting students focused on getting into college early on in their high school careers. The plan is for some high school students to actually attend classes at Antelope Valley College, taking a mix of college and high school level courses.

The mix of college course work would increase as the students progress through school. Upon graduation, the students would be well on their way to getting an associate's degree and being ready to transfer to a four-year school.

That program will start this fall with a group of about 75 students. Eventually the program would have up to 100 students each from the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior ranks in the program.

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com

(661) 267-5743

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Horace Mitchell, John Welty, Jackie Fisher, David Vierra and Gary Reichard, from left, participate in a panel discussion.

(2 -- color) CSU's Gary Reichard gives the keynote address at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade's education summit.

(3) CSU Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard delivers the keynote address Friday at The Antelope Valley Board of Trade conference on higher education.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 27, 2006
Words:767
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