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Southwestern College brings education closer to South County residents

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As the only public institution of higher education in South County, Southwestern College has provided quality programs and services to more than 600,000 students since its inception in 1961. The college is the region's primary source of training for police officers, firefighters, nurses, paramedics and other well-paying local jobs. The college's four full-service locations in Chula Vista, National City, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro bring the college experience closer to home to for all South County residents.

The Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa opened its doors last fall as a regional center for educational training and development. The $25 million state-of-the-art facility is designed to accommodate 5,000 students and houses signature educational programs that include the Police Academy, Environmental Technology, Nursing, Fire Science Technology, and Paramedic/Emergency Medical Technician.

In spring 2009, a new state-of-the art facility on the current San Ysidro site will be open to serve its students and the community. The Higher Education Center at San Ysidro was established in 1988. Over the years, the center has grown -- exceeding capacity and showcasing the need for a new facility. Upon completion, the center will be a two-story, 18,000-square-foot facility with the ability to serve 2,000 students.

The Higher Education Center at San Ysidro was built at the site of the 1984 McDonald's tragedy, where 21 people were killed, most of them children. Out of respect for the memory of the victims, the restaurant was demolished. Southwestern College officials were later successful in bringing the center to the San Ysidro community. The San Ysidro Memorial was dedicated in December 1990. The memorial will be incorporated into the permanent design of the new facility.

The Higher Education Centers -- along with the college's student services center, music center and academic success center -- are all signature construction projects that have been completed under Proposition AA. An $89 million bond measure generously approved by voters in 2000, Proposition AA exceeded expectations with all its projects being completed on time and on budget.

Despite Proposition AA's best efforts, the college still has needs, and its facilities are not fully adequate to meet the demands of its growing and changing student population. The college's enrollment is projected to increase 32 percent by 2016, and the college could be serving 50,000 students by 2020.

The Southwestern Community College District Governing Board recently voted unanimously to place the "2008 Classroom Repair and Job Training Measure" on the Nov. 4 ballot. Proposition R provides essential upgrades to infrastructure and remodels outdated classrooms, including necessary repairs such as improving fire safety, fixing bathrooms and leaky roofs, upgrading wiring/ventilation systems, repairing classrooms and science labs, and improving energy efficiency.

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