Southwestern College/Chula Vista Council to Form Joint Task Force to Explore University Concepts

Successful model presented at joint city/school meeting

An arrival view of the 375 acres the City of Chula Vista has acquired for a University and Innovation District.
An aerial view of the 375 acres the City of Chula Vista has acquired for a University and Innovation District.

CHULA VISTA, CA. – A university in Chula Vista has been a goal of local and state elected officials, as well as education, business and community leaders for decades. This week the Southwestern College Governing Board and the Chula Vista City Council unanimously agreed to create a joint task force to explore a University Center concept for South County.

The action was prompted after a joint meeting between the two boards Tuesday. Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Kindred Murillo had invited the chancellor from the Santa Clarita Community College District to present how that district built a university center to offer public and private universities’ degree programs on their College of the Canyons property.

Dr. Dianne Van Hook pooled funding from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, the local high school district, federal government, grants, a general obligation bond and private donations to build a $21 million, 110,000-square-foot university center. The center leases space to CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, University of LaVerne, Brandman University and National University. The universities offer 39 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, with a doctoral program beginning in the fall.

Dr. Dianne Van Hook presents how she built partnerships to construct a University Center that leases space to five universities, the local high school district and the economic development council.

The center also houses the high school district’s middle college campus and the local economic development council.

“Numerous studies have shown there is a pressing need for a four-year university in South County,” said Southwestern College Governing Board President Tim Nader, who also served as the mayor of Chula Vista in the early 90s. “We hope to bring to fruition such a university and the economic success and economic development such an institution brings.”

The City of Chula Vista has acquired 375 acres of land for a University and Innovation District. The City currently is pursuing land use and environmental entitlements as well as marketing the site to potential end users. The university campus is being planned to allow for up to 20,000 students along with associated research, office, commercial and residential uses.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas’ enthusiasm for the presentation led her to ask her colleagues at the City and at Southwestern College to form a joint task force.

“This is an exciting day,” said Casillas Salas. “There have been plans and dreams of a university since the early 80s. This is a matter of equity and access. A model at Southwestern College that expands opportunities for four-year degrees for residents would support the four-year University the City is planning.”

Members of the Southwestern College Governing Board (left) and the Chula Vista City Council gather to hear a presentation of a successful University Center model on the College of the Canyons Community College campus.

In their discussion after the presentation, Southwestern College trustees Norma Hernandez and Nora Vargas encouraged the group to continue considering binational education opportunities with university partners in Baja California.

A Chula Vista-funded report released last year advocated for a binational campus to attract students from both sides of the border. Southwestern College currently has partnership agreements with Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) and CETYS Universidad.