“I barely took any classes my first year here, and not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t get any of the classes I needed because there is so many students,” says College of the Canyons student Sophie Tucker.
“Now two years later I still stress about getting my registration date because I’m hoping the classes I want are still available.”
Tucker is among the 4,000 students who are waitlisted at College of the Canyons every semester. Students who are unable to get the English or math class they need.
COC has already started construction on a new parking structure that is expected to open Spring of 2019, going in at lot seven of the Valencia campus, to combat the growing student enrollment and the widely known parking issues it causes.
“I get calls from students, I get calls from instructors asking what we are going to do about the parking,” says Jim Schrage, Assistant Superintendent -Vice President, Facilities, Planning Operations and Construction.
“Some students get dropped from their classes because they can’t find a parking spot in time to get to class, I’d have to say this is one of my proudest projects here at the campus.”
The local bond Measure E was passed in June of 2016 and voted on by local citizens of the Santa Clarita Valley, to grant the funding for COC to start the extensive list of repairs and improvements both campuses need, including the parking and growing enrollment.
“It’s great to get started on this project and know that we’re going to make a difference in a simple but very practical way for our students,” says Eric Harnish, COC’s public information officer. “This has been in the works for a long time, we’ve known that we’ve needed to do this.”
But with new improvements promised to both campuses, where is the funding coming from and what exactly is Measure E?
In June of 2016 during the California Primary Election, the Santa Clarita Community College District proposed the bond Measure E that would provide locally controlled funding to upgrade the college at a cost of $15 per $100,000 of assessed, not market, value.
“The assessed value of a home is determined each year, but it is generally based on the original purchase price of a home making the assessed value a much lower amount than market value or what a home could be sold for today,” according to yesoneforcoc.com.
The last time residents of Santa Clarita voted on a bond for COC was in 2006, when voters passed Measure M, the $160 million construction bond to expand both of the colleges campuses.
The Measure E bond will provide $230 million to upgrade current facilities and increase capacity for student enrollment at both the Valencia and Canyon Country campuses outlined in the colleges 2016-2021 Educational and Facilities Master Plan.
While Measure E passed with 58 percent yes vote, not all were on board for the new proposal.
“The “project list” for Measure E is generic “pie in the sky”, there’s no guarantee any particular thing will be done at any particular location,” says Richard Michael of bigbadbonds.com.
“The District already has over half-million square feet of usable space. How much will this bond add?”
Though projects through the Measure E bond have already started, Santa Clarita residents are concerned about the ultimate cost and how it will affect the tax rate.
“The $230 million Measure E is estimated to cost $483,423,125? It might cost $529 million. It might cost $920 million. It might cost less. No one really knows, and anyone who says they do is lying, says resident Lee Barnathan.
The Santa Clarita Community College District’s independent citizens bond oversight committee confirmed that for the 10th year in a row, the district has properly accounted for all bonds, according to a COC press release.
The proposed projects for the Canyon Country campus include building four permanent buildings with computers and labs, adding 172,000 square feet of new learning and support space for 38 departments and adding 24 new computer labs.
The key improvements planned for the Valencia campus include the progressing three level parking garage that will create 1,659 new spaces, renovating 350,000 square feet of outdated facilities and two new buildings to expand enrollment in career training programs.
Though the new bond measure was not favored by all, it is undeniable that the proposed improvements are necessary for both campuses to allocate for the growing number of students.
In the past ten years, enrollment has increased to nearly 20,000 students and that number is projected to grow to 30,000 over the next decade because of programs like First-Year Promise, which will provide new full-time students with a free year of college.
College of the Canyons has the highest student transfer rate to universities out of any two- year college in the Los Angeles County while also ranking top five in the state for student completion for college prepared students.
More than 60 percent of local William S. Hart Union High School District graduates attend COC within two years of graduating.
“I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do yet when I was in high school,” says Valencia High School graduate and now communications major Courtney Duhart.
“For the local students, we’re lucky that we grew up with such a great school so conveniently available to us. COC turned out to be the best option for me and gave me those extra couple years to truly figure out what I wanted to do.”
At COC students are offered courses in a variety of careers with 83 degree programs and 68 certificates to choose from.
Ultimately College of the Canyons wants to continue to provide the high-quality education that prepares their students for universities and future careers.
“With the support and trust from the community, we are committed to continue building for the future,” says Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook.