Ohlone College Cancels Plans to Develop Frontage Property and Pursues New Solutions to Funding Formula Crisis
Fremont, Calif., April 29, 2019—The Ohlone Community College District and its development partner, Steelwave Acquisitions, LLC, have made the joint decision to terminate their efforts in pursuing the proposal of a change in land use for the College’s frontage property.
The College and Steelwave LLC had been in the process of proposing a unique mixed-use development plan called The Mission at Village Walk, which would have included 275 residential units to rent, 37 of which were to be subsidized and reserved for special groups including seniors, Ohlone College, and K-12 school district employees. International students would have also been given preference for the other market-rate units. The design of the buildings had been planned carefully as to blend in with the surrounding Mission San Jose architecture and included a 6,500 square foot retail area with walkways and land designated for leisure activity.
“Our mission at Ohlone College is to serve the community, and upon hearing our community’s concerns about the project proposal, we paused and took them into great consideration,” says Dr. Gari Browning, President and Superintendent of the Ohlone College District. “Our neighbors are a big part of our Ohlone family and maintaining that unity was important in making this decision.”
Ohlone College is the Tri-Cities’ community college and brings enormous value to the community and the cities it serves. Each year Ohlone students, employees, and alumni add $330 million to the local economy. In its 51 years, the College has served 375,000 students, more than the number of residents in its service area, and provides a college education at about 10% of the cost of UC. Each year 16,000 individuals take advantage of that bargain.
“Ohlone College, its excellent faculty and staff intend to continue providing the community a high-quality education,” says Browning. “However, we are facing a dire financial situation with the new California Community College funding formula, and we know that our local community will show their support as we go through this challenging period.”
The frontage property development project was initiated as a means of creating an income stream independent of the State—a critical component to the College’s ability to continue to fulfill its mission. Ohlone is projected to lose more than 10.9 percent of its total general funds when the new California Community College funding formula takes effect in 2021-22. Scenarios supplied by the state Chancellor’s Office and increasing costs indicate that we will receive an approximate $7 million apportionment reduction that year and each year thereafter.
“We want to be able to continue to serve our students and to be able to offer them a variety of courses and opportunities for learning. But, if we cannot find a sustainable source of income to stave off the state funding cuts, we cannot do that,” says Browning. “However, it gives us solace knowing that our local neighbors understand the value we provide them.”
The Ohlone District is not community funded, where the source of funding stems from local property taxes and is largely independent from the State. The College relies on the State’s funding and cuts will have a negative impact. Eighty-seven percent of the College’s funding goes to faculty and staff that support students and educational programs and, without their help, the institution cannot operate to its fullest capacity.
Since the news came out from the California Chancellor’s Office, Ohlone College administrators and staff have been working to find new ways to stave off the State cuts.
Those efforts have included increased marketing about the various courses and programs offered at Ohlone to increase interest and enrollment, international student recruitment, helping students complete their studies through the guided pathway system and receive their degrees and certificates, assisting new students with financial aid paperwork, rearranging the class schedule to better meet students’ needs, and by making a concerted effort to recruit prospective students through the Promise program and identifying other financial resources for which they may be eligible.
The College has very actively sought out non-traditional means of creating long-term funding streams independent of the State, of which the frontage property proposal held the largest promise of steady income. Now that the project has been taken off the table, the College continues to pursue solutions, which include a parcel tax proposal, leasing a portion of its land for wine grape production, continued efforts in hosting the Tri-Cities Street Fair as a means of increasing revenue and also serving the community, and the possibility of moving a Starbucks on to campus.