Should UC San Diego expand to Chula Vista? New chairman of UC regents says yes

Rich Leib just began serving as chairman of the University of California Board of Regents.
Rich Leib just began serving as chairman of the University of California Board of Regents.
(Hayne Palmour IV)

Rich Leib knew that serving as chairman of the University of California Board of Regents was going to be a challenge. He took the gavel last week with the regents trying to figure out how to deal with crushing enrollment demand and housing shortages at many campuses, including UC San Diego in La Jolla, where about 1,140 students are on waiting lists for campus dorms and apartments.

Leib says he favors the idea of having UCSD establish a sizable satellite campus in Chula Vista and believes that an educational partnership with Southwestern College, also in Chula Vista, is worth discussing.

He further says it’s worth exploring whether UCSD could create some type of partnership with San Diego State University at the satellite campus SDSU is developing in Mission Valley.

Leib (pronounced Leeb) also says the UC system might be able to add as many as 33,000 students by 2030. The working goal has been to increase the number by 20,000.

Leib, 65, is a Solana Beach resident and president and chief executive of Dunleer Strategies, a consulting firm that helps emerging companies develop business strategies. He served on the California Community Colleges Board of Governors for six years and on the Solana Beach School District board for nearly 12 years.

He answered questions from The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: The University of California system added 107,000 students over the past 20 years. But supply still isn’t meeting demand. Each year, thousands of eligible students don’t find the spot they want, or any at all, at the system’s campuses. Do you grasp the anxiety that this causes for prospective students?

A: I totally get it. I went to UC Santa Barbara in the 1970s when all you needed was a 3.3 grade point average. Today, the high school GPAs of most freshmen in the UC are about 4.0. ...

I don’t have a problem with someone not getting the campus of their choice; the UC has nine excellent undergraduate campuses. But we’re not admitting a lot of eligible students, and that’s a major issue for me. ...

The value of a UC degree is so important, and its availability needs to be expanded to so many more people.

Education is the great equalizer. While we have improved over the last several years, we still need to do more.

Q: What’s the main problem?

A: Capacity is a huge issue. Our state has grown tremendously over the last 50 years. But we have opened only one UC campus — Merced — in all that time . We haven’t had the kind of money that Gov. Pat Brown had when he opened three UC campuses in the 1960s. Fortunately, Gov. [Gavin] Newsom has been very generous to the University of California over the last couple of years in terms of the budget. And it looks like we’ll get a 5 percent budget increase over each of the next five years.

UC San Diego expects to enroll a record 44,000 students this fall.
(Hayne Palmour IV)

Q: The regents have said they would like to increase undergraduate enrollment by about 6,200 this fall and by 20,000 overall by 2030. How much do you think enrollment will grow?

A: We’re looking at going beyond that and possibly adding as many as 33,000 students by 2030. I think it is doable. The result would essentially establish a new UC campus without actually building one.

We are looking at a lot of different ideas to increase capacity, including adding supplemental online classes, increasing summer school attendance and offering classes at later times of the day to accommodate students who have to work.

Also, some UCs need to expand beyond their current physical campuses. UCLA is looking to add satellite campuses with specialized programs in Simi Valley and San Pedro. UC Santa Cruz might be able to have a presence in Watsonville or Gilroy. UC San Diego may be able to expand into South County. We also need to look at possibly sharing resources with Cal State University campuses and the California Community Colleges.

And there are some real opportunities involving private colleges that are unable to survive in the current economic downturn. We might be able to get one-time money to purchase these facilities and open them as satellite campuses.

San Diego's Blue Line trolley extension is connecting south San Diego County students with UCSD's campus in La Jolla.
(Diane Bell / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Q: UCSD is already inching south. It recently opened an events and community center in downtown San Diego. The school is about to buy an apartment complex two blocks away and may add another. Do you think the university could expand to a place like Chula Vista in a big way?

A: Speaking for myself, I’d be all for it if UCSD could expand to Chula Vista in a meaningful way. South San Diego [County] has been totally ignored. We need to take advantage of the recent expansion of the Blue Line light rail system, which allows you to go from Otay Mesa to UCSD in about a half-hour. If UCSD had space down there — if it bought property, put up buildings — students could take classes there and in La Jolla. Chula Vista could be a component of UCSD.

The school might hike its housing capacity to 40,000 students to deal with the influx of enrollments

June 11, 2022

Q: UCSD expects to have about 44,000 students this fall. Chancellor Pradeep Khosla says the number will grow to about 50,000 within 10 years. Could you see, say, an additional 10,000 students being added in Chula Vista over time?

A: Yes, I could. I think Pradeep would look very carefully at that. It would be a matter of getting the resources.

Q: You mentioned online classes but said you’d like to add them on a supplemental basis. Do you think of online as being less rigorous than in-person classes?

A: No, I think online can be just as rigorous as in-person classes. But I do believe that the socialization process at school ... is as important as taking classes.

When I went to school, the ability to be with other people and discuss the class material was just as important as the material itself. I get that some students don’t have the ability to go to brick-and-mortar buildings and need to do much of their work at home. But the interaction and socialization process is so important [that] I think it still needs to be the main path to getting a degree. ◆