With state funding slimmer, SRJC's Petaluma campus charts future

PETALUMA – The Sonoma County Junior College District is charting a future for its recently expanded Petaluma Campus, considering strategies at a time when reductions to state funding have stymied plans to increase enrollment and kept attendance hovering at about half the facility's capacity.

[caption id="attachment_53930" align="alignleft" width="180"] Dr. L. Jane Saldana Talley[/caption]

In the weeks leading up to the first-ever “State of the Petaluma Campus” address, Dr. L. Jane Saldaña-Talley, vice president and executive dean of the campus, said that the future would include further outreach to market the 40-acre campus as a regional community asset and helping to expand awareness of its array of academic programs.

“In the past, we’ve been focused on sheer growth. But I think we’re going to do some real strategic planning to figure out what the strengths of this place are,” she said.

The third and final phase in the modern re-imagining of the campus was completed in 2009, capping 17 years of construction and tripling its capacity to approximately 12,000 students. Afforded largely by voter-approved Measure A bonds, the construction and renovation cost approximately $78 million.

But while the campus had drawn a steadily increasing number of students since expansion began, the decrease in California’s funding for public education forced officials to cut the total number of class sections, effectively limiting enrollment. About 5,900 students currently attend 350 class sections in Petaluma, down from a high of 7,000 students and 550 sections in 2008, according to Dr. Saldaña-Talley.

“Spring of 2009 was when the economy really slowed down. Then, all of our resources changed,” she said.

While reductions to class offerings have had a similar impact on both the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Junior College campuses, officials said that the smaller enrollment at Petaluma – compared to the 19,265 currently attending 1,939 sections in Santa Rosa – is an asset that the college can market for students interested in the feel of a smaller college. Even at full capacity, the Petaluma campus would still be dwarfed by its larger partner to the north.

[caption id="attachment_53931" align="alignleft" width="180"] Dr. Frank Chong[/caption]

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