Discussions still in the early stages
San Jose State University is considering the prospect of a satellite operation in the South Valley and is looking at Morgan Hill or Gilroy as a potential home.
Little is apparently set in stone, but college officials confirmed this week they are exploring the development of programs in South Valley. Discussions are continuing with both cities and it is unclear right now what will be done.
“At this point we’re still in the exploratory stages,” said Michael Ego, dean of SJSU’s College of Applied Sciences and Arts, who was recently asked to assume leadership of an team charged with looking into expanded programs here. “We have no definition of what we’re going to offer down there, how we’re going to do it or what it’s going to be. It’s still in the discussion stage.”
However, he characterized the exploratory effort as a serious one.
“There has been some legwork done in the last four or five months,” he said. “I think based on those preliminary discussions and (a) study we commissioned, there are encouraging signs that there is interest by people in that region to have something provided in the form of courses and programs.
“The fact that we’re doing this exploratory discussion seriously is a good sign.”
Ego said two major factors in launching the expansion effort are anticipated growth in the area and the status of SJSU’s main downtown campus, which he said is starting to reach capacity.
“We have almost 32,000 students now on campus,” Ego said. “We’re pretty landlocked, and if we do anything we’d have to build up.”
Part of the exploratory effort will be framed upon the results of a survey made by the university’s Survey and Policy Research Institute that gauged needs an interest in South Valley.
Phil Trounstine, director of the institute, said he is not yet free to speak about details of the survey until local and high-level university officials can meet to discuss them. However, the survey showed there is a strong interest here in a satellite campus, he said.
“There’s a very high level of interest in both credit courses and professional development classes,” he said.
Ego said initial thoughts are that the first phase of a satellite operation here could offer continuing education courses for nonmatriculated students (students not enrolled in the university) to upgrade their skills. Once that’s off the ground, officials could begin to think more definitively about offering upper-division courses as well as major courses in certain disciplines.
Ideally the offerings would complement those at Gavilan College, with South Valley students competing their general education at the community college and then flowing into upper-division work through SJSU.
Gavilan President Steve Kinsella said the university’s presence would be “a real plus” from a long-term perspective.
Kinsella said Gavilan officials have been working with SJSU for the past year and a half on bringing more programs to this area, Kinsella said, in hopes of prompting students to move beyond the associate degree and toward their bachelor’s degree. SJSU is offering a couple of classes at Gavilan next semester and also staged a writing skills exam last spring.
“The vast majority of our students transfer to San Jose State,” he said. “Instead of putting them on the highway and sending them north, if there’s the way to have the courses offered down here it would certainly help the students.”
One possibility for a satellite campus to reflect a “university center” concept such as what exists at Cañada College where the university is located on the Gavilan campus, Kinsella said. Whether the capacity exists to do that would depend on student demand cycles, but they could mesh, as Gavilan demand is from morning to early afternoon while San Jose State’s is reportedly a little later in the day.
SJSU also could pursue an independent campus as well, Kinsella said. The decision may depend on the philosophy of the replacement for outgoing SJSU President Robert Caret.
“They may have an interest in co-locating, or their philosophy may be that they want a distinction,” Kinsella said. “It depends on their philosophy and I don’t think that’s clear right now.”
Regardless, expansion to South Valley is a logical direction for the university to go, Kinsella said.
“Moving to the location where the students are is what we’ve done in Hollister and Morgan Hill, and it’s proven successful.”