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COMMUNITY OPINION: Why are we buying an expensive education dinosaur?

Gavilan College is proposing to build a 1990s era SBC Education Center that will be obsolete on day one in the age of distant learning. What we need is nimble technology for education.

This opinion was contributed by community member Marty Richman. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

It’s not surprising that public agencies are almost always behind the power curve, they are set in their ways and controlled by vested interests. Fourteen years after passing the Measure E bond to build the SBC Education Center all we have is a $9 million piece of empty land. That money-pit has not educated a single soul; meanwhile the world turns. It was a good idea then, now it’s already obsolete - by 2030 when it may finally be built, it’ll be the proverbial dinosaur. 

Even the state can see the handwriting on the wall and it won't be long before funding support for old-fashioned Community College campus operations dries up significantly.  That lack of state funding is already one of Gavilan's major excuses for not doing anything they promised in the county.  Gavilan’s proposal to build what amounts to 1990s era Education Center in San Benito County in 2030 or later makes no sense. Why would we buy an expensive and outdated dinosaur in a digital and virtual world? 

California Community Colleges have the primary mission of offering academic and vocational instruction at the lower division level for both younger and older students, including those persons returning to school. Much of that can be done by distance learning today, tomorrow it will be a whole lot more.

Some facilities are necessary especially for vocational training, but Gavilan has already removed aeronautical training from the county and installed a Police Academy elsewhere with our tax dollars. We do not need the proposed housing or the on-again-off-again football field, big parking lots or brick and mortar hard-walled classrooms in excess. What we need is nimble technology and education on the move for a Community College’s target age groups.

In today’s world things connect. If you think that’s the future, you’re wrong, it already exists. My adult children both work remotely from across the nation when necessary.  Telemedicine is widely available, my medications come from Florida, my financial management from Pennsylvania, my credit union is in D.C., and remote learning is already available to me.

Governor Brown included $120 million in his final budget for the new online community college, which is scheduled to start in the fall of 2019 after he has left office. Like the other 114 other community college districts, the online college will have its own board and president.

According to an article in CALmatters, tens of thousands of Californians are turning to private and out-of-state schools for distance learning, and Brown and Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley say they want to provide an affordable, high-quality option for busy adults to gain skills that will help them in the labor market.

Should we be waiting more than another decade for an Education Center whose funds were siphoned away and is already old hat or should we get going on the future right now?

Marty Richman is a declared candidate for the Hollister City Council District 4.



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Marty Richman (Marty Richman)

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer.Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects. You can follow Marty Richman on twitter @Marty_Richman. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.


Submitted by Valerie Egland (valerie egland) on

Again you've hit the nail on the head,  Marty. When the learning environment is moving so fast there's little chance that the education bureaucracy can be visionary enough to keep up. Planning requires sooo much time, they can only hope to get it right.  Thanks for the 'thinking points'.

I'm sure I'm a dinosaur, but I'll put in my two cents anyhow.  I'm not going to rail against distance learning; my daughter earned a bachelor's degree that way and it has served her well.  But I believe there are things that distance learning has a hard time providing.  Mentoring is a different process when you're face-to-face over a cup of coffee than it is when you're relying on emails or online chats, even with video. Just as an online library can be fabulous , but can't provide the serendipity of discovering something in the stacks that you didn't know existed.  There is a personal component to education that is just as important as the information you can get online. I don't know what a campus of the future should look like, but I am confident that some such function will have value.


Hi Franz, thanks for your comment.  I happen to agree that there are some advantages to face-to-face and hands-on learning especially in the vocational and practical courses; my point is that in most cases you do not need a traditional campus with its whopping capital and upkeep costs to do that.  Besides, we do not have anything to actually compare, we paid for a campus but did not get one.

If you're doing nursing processes, you're better off doing it in an actual hospital or clinical setting than in a classroom.  To the advantage of distance learning is the possibility getting the best teachers - you can mentor in almost any setting even a coffee shop (I'm for keeping teachers, just not a phantom multimillion dollar campus).

Please remember that we are 14 years from the funding of our campus and we are likely to be at least 12 more years ahead of us since Gavilan quietly slipped us down to the bottom priority on their capital list.  So the question becomes what is a campus worth in 2030 that has contributed nothing for a total of almost 30 years at great cost, versus what you can get sooner.

Do we need a bond in excess of $200 million when it is obvious from their priority list that we are not going to get anything but a tax bill?  We do not need to send money to Coyote Valley, and since Gav admits that is what they are going to do (see their capital plan).  It's not about today, it's about the future when they MAY get around to building a campus IF they get a third bond and IF they feel like it and IF the state will help.

Under any circumstances, local or remote, you need a partner you can trust.  Gavilan is not trustworthy when it comes to money.

Marty Richman

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