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Our view: Cal Poly’s prominence grows but there is a cost

By and   /   Friday, May 26th, 2017  /   Comments Off on Our view: Cal Poly’s prominence grows but there is a cost

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The Frost family’s $110 million gift to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is the ultimate validation of former President Warren Baker’s vision of Cal Poly as a leading research institution within the California State University system.

It also validates current President Jeffrey Armstrong’s decision to double-down on entrepreneurship, forging close connections with the SLO business community to merge the startup culture with the amenities that SLO offers.

This is an amazing success that will turn a city known as the happiest on earth into a marketplace for new ideas and new technology.

But it also comes with a price. As Cal Poly’s stature grows statewide, nationally and even internationally, the options for North Santa Barbara County and SLO County high school and community college graduates decline. More competition will keep many from attending Cal Poly.

The nearest other California State University campuses are at Seaside, Fresno, Bakersfield and Channel Islands — all are at least 100 miles away.

Attending one of those schools means moving away from home, something that’s a nonstarter for sons and daughters of families that own small businesses or for people who must work full time to pay for their education.

We recognize that not everybody needs a college degree; certificate programs will suffice for many who are in technical and paraprofessional occupations.

But today there are more than 500,000 people in our region — roughly one-third the population of the Tri-Counties — who do not have access to a CSU campus.

South Santa Barbara County has solved a piece of the puzzle by co-locating some of CSU Channel Islands undergraduate degree programs on the Santa Barbara City College campus and through a nursing program with Cottage Health. Cuesta College has teamed up with CSU Monterey Bay to offer a nursing degree.

But for Cuesta and Allan Hancock college students, for employees at municipal and county governments whose next promotion requires an undergraduate degree and for employees at the Chumash Casino, Hardy Diagnostics and other institutions, there is no easy path to advancement.

Not so very long ago, high school and community college graduates from Moorpark to Morro Bay could get into Cal Poly if they had decent grades and test scores.

We would encourage the CSU system to look closely at options for providing undergraduate education to this very much underserved population. And we’d encourage major employers, local governments and area foundations to think about how to provide funding for such a program.

MEMORIAL DAY RESPITE

The latest revelations from Washington have become all-consuming for the media and the political class.

And there’s no doubt the drama over Russian intervention in the election, leaks and firings will go on through the summer. But we should remember that this is how democracy works and use Memorial Day to reflect on that.

Democrats need to remember that every presidential misstep is not an impeachable offense and they need to regain control of Congress to be relevant. Republicans who want to lock up the leakers should first look in the mirror and imagine how Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson would have looked in orange jumpsuits.

We fought a revolutionary war, a civil war and two world wars to preserve our democratic institutions, our free enterprise system and the free press. Yes, it is messy. But is it the best available system among many dismal alternatives.

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