2008-01-31 / Business

Corporate leaders schooled on higher education needs

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

About 160 community leaders gathered on Tuesday in a meeting room in the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center at California Lutheran University to listen to three college presidents discuss the challenges facing higher education.

Those on the panel were Eva Conrad, president of Moorpark College; Richard Rush, president of California State University Channel Islands; and the Rev. Howard Wennes, interim president of CLU.

Hugh Ralston, CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, was the moderator.

Ralston asked the presidents to tell about the practical challenges facing those who seek higher education.

"The reason we exist is for the students," Rush said. Some people would like to pursue higher education, he said, but can't afford the $1,500 a semester tuition it costs at CSUCI, even though it's much less than many other schools.

Rush said Cal State Channel Islands can be selective with faculty, with 13,100 applications for 92 positions. Providing laboratories, however, to educate future engineers and scientists is difficult. Laboratories cost about $250,000 minimum just to get started, he said.

Moorpark College has 15,000 students, beautiful buildings and ample space, Conrad said. They don't have to recruit students to fill classes.

Tuition costs aren't the only financial concerns of students. From 2000 to 2005, the price of textbooks increased 31 percent and rent shot up 24 percent, she said.

"An average college student in California works about 32 hours a week," Conrad said.

At CLU, the faculty accepts less than average salaries, the students pay a lot to go there, and their parents often make sacrifices, but the commitment and compromises are worth it, Wennes said.

All spoke of the importance of partnering with the business community.

"Our largest donor is the state of California, and they've gone south on us," Rush said.

The Corporate Leaders Breakfast Series brings regional business and civic leaders together to share ideas and hear from their peers in the community. Among those attending were Jack Gilbert, the donor and namesake of the fitness center where the meeting was held, Thousand Oaks Mayor Jacqui Irwin and T.O. City Council members Dennis Gillette and Tom Glancy.

Return to top