Southwestern College Student Housing Planning Grants Funded

Southwestern College students may soon be sharing study space and student services in proposed student housing projects.

Southwestern College will begin exploring the feasibility of affordable student housing for each of its four campuses: Chula Vista, National City, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro, thanks to nearly $1 million in state-awarded planning grants.

The college received an award letter Tuesday informing the funding would be included in the annual Budget Act. The district applied for the grants through the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program through Senate Bill 169. The bill provides $500 million in fiscal year  2021-2022.

“We know that housing is the largest single expense for our students,” said Dr. Kelly Hall, Southwestern’s vice president for business and financial affairs. “We want to build new student support hubs that provide not just housing, but services, cafes and child care facilities.”

Citing data from the Community College Equity Assessment Laboratory and the Hope Center, district leaders have seen the impact of food and housing insecurity for Southwestern College students.  Through its planning grant applications, the district proposed building the housing on college-owned property or near its campuses. Additionally, college officials included in the 2018 Facilities Master Plan a desire to explore student housing options.

National City Campus

In National City, college officials have been working closely with National City staff and council members to secure the two parcels across the street from the Higher Education Center at National City. One parcel is owned by National City. Longtime South County residents will recognize the contiguous property as the former Trophy Lounge.

The proposed project is in the early design stages, preliminary estimates suggest the project would require an investment of almost $96 million. The number of beds included in the final design will depend on the combination of traditional student dormitories and non-traditional housing units that would accommodate families.

The project would also include upgrading the parking structure next door and adding needed student amenities. Among the additional services that would be provided to student residents would be a cafe, laundry facilities, health care, child care, multi-use conference rooms and a basic needs student support service center. The auxiliary services would generate funding to help the college maintain facility operations.

Chula Vista Campus

In Chula Vista, the college is considering the feasibility of freeing up space on the existing campus by creating multi-level parking structures. The college is also exploring repurposing the property it owns across the street from the campus that formerly housed a city of Chula Vista ambulance service. If this site is selected, the district would tear down that building for new construction.

In the Chula Vista proposal, the district estimates a $43-million project that would provide housing and the additional services provided in the National City campus proposal.

San Ysidro Campus

At San Ysidro, the district is looking to repurpose the parking lot across the street from the Higher Education Center to include parking and student housing. The proposal is also for a $97-million project that would include additional student services.

Otay Mesa Campus

Finally, at the Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, the district is proposing a $97-million project that would be built on the property currently owned by the college on Airway Road.

The planning grants for the Chula Vista, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro campuses would help the district determine the number of student beds/rooms that would be feasible. The college would also explore the possibility of employee housing in each of the projects.