San Mateo County's community colleges look for funding help 

click to enlarge Career track: Cañada College is among the community colleges that would benefit from a new bond. (Examiner file photo) - CAREER TRACK: CAÑADA COLLEGE IS AMONG THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM A NEW BOND. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Career track: Cañada College is among the community colleges that would benefit from a new bond. (Examiner file photo)
  • Career track: Cañada College is among the community colleges that would benefit from a new bond. (Examiner file photo)

Faced with more students and less state funding, the San Mateo Community College District is hoping voters approve Measure H in November to allow the district to issue $564 million in bonds over the next seven years.

The measure would cost San Mateo County property owners an estimated $12.92 per $100,000 in assessed property value each year, which on average comes out to $6.50 a month. The levy would continue for 25 years and pay for modernization, construction and technology.

Voters already approved bond measures in 2001 and 2005 that together provided $675 million in funding, but most of that money has been spent and more is needed to help the district meet growing demand, officials said.

“Because Cal State and California University systems have turned away tens of thousands of students and done double-digit tuition hikes, they have priced themselves out of the range of middle-class families,” said Richard Holober, president of the district’s Board of Trustees. “That leaves community colleges as the only affordable higher-education vehicle in the county.”

At the same time, high unemployment has increased the demand for vocational and other training, forcing the district to turn away thousands of students due to limited space.

“We’ve been growing in leaps and bounds in terms of science enrollment,” said Barbara Christensen, director of community government relations.

Some 14,000 students were on waiting lists this fall, and while growth may be good, the timing is not.

In 2006, the state cut funds and bond measures for community colleges, eliminating $200 million in funding over the past five years, Christensen said.

Making matters worse, all three district campuses are between 40 and 50 years old and “need a lot of love and attention,” Christensen said.

Multiple surveys conducted over the years have shown that some 70 percent of San Mateo residents or a member of their immediate family have attended either Skyline College, College of San Mateo or Cañada College — a good reason for voters to support the measure, Christensen said.

nkyriakou@sfexaminer.com

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