The Past, The Present, The Future – May 2015
Cuesta College was created in 1963, and its beginnings were quite humble.
I came to Cuesta College as a 26-year-old man in 1967. I was a math teacher and football coach, working on what many today consider the ‘old campus.’ We worked out of leased Camp San Luis Obispo barracks with cows grazing throughout the campus.
It didn’t take long for the newly sprouted community college to grow out of its modest dwellings and, in 1968, the Cuesta Board of Trustees asked the community to help build permanent facilities that would better support students. So a general obligation bond was placed on the ballot for $11 million. Needing two-thirds approval by the voters, it didn’t pass. But the Board didn’t give up as the college’s needs didn’t go away.
In November of 1970, Cuesta College again asked the community for support in the form of a $5 million bond. The bond passed, and soon after the first permanent buildings began to appear, including the physical education shower and locker rooms as well as the science complex, which continues to house the physical and biological sciences programs today.
However, as Cuesta College grew, its needs did, too. So in June of 1974, the college went out for another bond in the amount of $8.5 million. The voters turned it down, but, once again, the college’s needs didn’t go away. That same year, Cuesta put another bond of $8 million on the November ballot, and it passed. The funding was used to complete the basic campus structures, including engineering and technology, business education, language arts, social sciences, fine and performing arts, and the Library Learning Center.
And until November 4, 2014, that was the last time Cuesta College passed a bond – 40 years ago.
Today, two-thirds of Cuesta College’s buildings are more than 40 years old. The college has done well to extend many systems or structures that are beyond their life expectancy as well as patch cracked concrete, and repair deteriorating machinery. But the need to repair and upgrade the facilities had grown exponentially over the years.
There are a multitude of reasons why 40 years passed between bonds; one being the two-thirds voter approval threshold. In 2000, the voters approved Proposition 39 which lowered the required approval to 55 percent. The college attempted a bond in 2006 that failed, and soon after, in 2008, the college entered into a period of accreditation crisis, and the State of California plummeted into a fiscal crisis, reducing Cuesta’s annual revenues by $10 million.
It was during this time, in 2009, that I was lured out of retirement and successfully competed for the position of Cuesta College superintendent/president. During those challenging years the college was in no position to seek a general obligation bond.
But times, they are a-changing!
Cuesta College’s accreditation status has been reaffirmed, the state budget improved, and in 2013, the college began to test the voter sentiment about a potential bond. In October of 2013, a preliminary survey was conducted of county voters. The results of the survey were encouraging – 69 percent of those surveyed indicated they would support a bond measure of $347 million; the maximum that the college’s Board of Trustees could request.
For the next eight months, college representatives worked closely with community leaders, groups and coalitions, scheduling dozens of speaking engagements to talk about Cuesta’s needs, answer questions about a possible bond and gather community feedback. After much deliberation, the decision was made in late July 2014 that Cuesta College would place a $275 million bond on the November ballot. The amount is sufficient to address many of the college’s needs while also being mindful of the economic impact on county property owners.
And on November 4, 2014, the voters of San Luis Obispo County spoke. Measure L passed with 62 percent approval.
The passage of Measure L is a vote of confidence in the educational opportunities and workforce preparation Cuesta College provides to the county. The voters saw that modern facilities are an integral component in successful education, and by implementing our Facilities Master Plan we are responding to this vote of confidence in our institution. Due to diligent planning, the college is months ahead of schedule with plans for facility construction and repair.
By the end of the spring semester, construction on both the San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles campuses will begin the interim housing projects. The new temporary structures will accommodate programs and classrooms that currently reside in modular structures that must be removed by State law. The displaced programs and classrooms will eventually reside in a North County Campus Center and a San Luis Obispo Campus Instructional Building; construction on those will begin approximately spring 2016.
Additionally, repairs and renovations to existing District facilities on the San Luis Obispo Campus will take place between the spring and fall of 2015.
The funds from Measure L will be used to repair Cuesta’s aquatic center, build a permanent new campus center on the San Luis Obispo Campus, a permanent Early Childhood Center on the Paso Robles Campus, provide technology upgrades to both campuses, and more.
All by the year 2024.
I look forward to the facilities improvement Measure L will bring to Cuesta College. I hope you find this website informative and insightful, and should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the college.