Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced College is bursting at the seams

FEATURE OP/ED

Chris Vitelli, Ed.D. Merced College President/Superintendent
Chris Vitelli, Ed.D.
Merced College President/Superintendent

As I come to the end of my third year at Merced College, I still hold the same belief as when I officially started here in January 2017: A top-notch community college can transform a community.

The numbers back it up. A recent community survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of the households in this area have at least one family member who has studied at Merced College. It is an amazing statistic, showing how many lives the College influences.

We worked hard in 2019 to ensure that influence grows.

To start, enrollments have increased steadily over the past five years. That will continue because we now offer free tuition to all first-time, full-time students through The California Promise.

In the first year alone, we welcomed the most full-time students to campus that we have since 2011—over 10,000 total.

We expanded career technical education (CTE) programs in Los Banos and instruct another 1,400 students through inmate education courses. Students did the rest. We set records while awarding more than 2,750 degrees and certificates in 2019.

But to maintain that intellectual growth, we need to plan well and to pay for those plans.

We aced both tasks in 2019. We established broad goals with specific objectives by completing a 10-year Facilities Master Plan, the Strategy Implementation Plan and the 5-year Technology Master plan.

And we secured matching funds for a state-of-the-art Agricultural and Industrial Technology Complex. This last major building project fulfills the promise of the 2002 bond measure for both Merced and Los Banos communities.

As I begin my fourth year at Merced College, I remain grateful to lead this vibrant community institution. I am also eager for us to start other major projects that will enhance prospects for our students, our educational partners and local employers.

Come March 2020, our community will be voting on Measure J. If voters approve this bond, we will have funds to repair existing buildings in Merced and Los Banos, and to build others.

It has been nearly 20 years since we asked the community to consider a bond. Measure J, a $247-million bond, will provide locally-controlled funding to upgrade our outdated instructional facilities. It will cost approximately $25 per $100,000 of assessed property value annually for as long as the bonds are outstanding. A typical homeowner in Merced County will pay approximately $45 per year—less than $4 a month, on average.

The money will boost our CTE offerings. We would be able to expand and modernize labs, build an automotive technology and welding center, add a mechanized agriculture complex, and construct an allied health simulation lab for the nursing program, just to name a few.

Merced County is the fastest growing county in California, so our campus population will grow along with it. Our master plans require us to keep up. This community relies on us to keep up. Quite simply, we need more space with modern technology to fully prepare the future workforce.

The new Ag/IT building construction and a positive result with the bond will set Merced College up to reach new heights for decades. As a committed “Mercedian,” I plan to be a part of this community for a lifetime, well beyond my tenure as president of this amazing college. I am determined to see the impact our collective work has on future generations.

The Merced College vision demands that we provide “transformative and empowering educational experiences” to meet the needs of students and the community.

The Year 2020 will be filled with opportunities to put that vision into action. Together, we can get so much accomplished for our growing community.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and productive 2020.

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