One of the least-known, but most important measures on our June 7 ballot is Measure C, which would provide $485 million worth of improvements for the largest institution of higher learning in Central California.
You might think I’m referring to Fresno State, but no. I mean the integrated system of colleges known as the State Center Community College District, which includes the Madera campus on Avenue 12 and the Oakhurst campus. Also included are Fresno City College, Reedley College and Clovis Community College. Together they help educate some 50,000 students a year.
These campuses, all within commuting distance of one another, make up the college of the future as well as the present. California’s university systems, while excellent institutions, are necessarily aimed at limited student markets, primarily because of cost and the fact that students generally have to travel sometimes far away from home to attend those campuses — which adds to their costs, inconvenience and failure rate.
The State Center Community College system offers classes closer to where students live at prices students are more likely to afford. Not only are basic, transferrable academic courses offered, but so are occupational studies that can lead to certification for professional careers.
The bond would provide money for 24,000 square feet of new classroom space at the Madera campus, and would expand that facility’s advanced manufacturing, health science, licensed vocational nursing and agricultural programs.
It also would provide funds to purchase a site and start construction on permanent buildings for the Oakhurst campus.
The bond also would provide money for expansion and improvements at other campuses.
These institutions also provide advanced learning for high schools in their areas, allowing students who qualify to take college courses while still in high school. This gives these students a leg up on their college careers, no matter what they decide to study or where they decide to study it.
The state center campuses assist with economic development by helping train workforces needed now and in the future. Economists who try to predict what labor needs of the future may be know that skills for the best-paying jobs of the future are as likely to be learned in community colleges as they are in universities.
Money from this bond will be spent not on staff salaries, but on capital improvements.
For all these reasons, Measure C deserves a Yes vote in the June 7 primary election.