President Whisenhunt and a college in transition

Thomas Chesy, News Editor

Interim San Diego City College President Denise Whisenhunt sat with City Times for an interview last Wednesday on the future of City College, the San Diego Community College District, and the city of San Diego as a whole.

How will funds from the passage of Proposition 51 be appropriated, and what changes can City students expect to see as a result?

“My understanding is that Proposition 51 is designed principally for colleges that have limited bond resources. There are limited dollars attached to (the bond), so we’re not really engaged in the allocation of those proposition 51 resources. … We feel fortunate that the city of San Diego gave us resources to invest in the community colleges, and the experiences that you have now going to our colleges.”

What is City College doing about the rising homeless population around campus, and has the college been in contact with the city about this issue?

“The homeless concerns extend beyond our campus and it’s going to take the city to address the problems of our community. It’s really a city solution; we need city government involved. We’re very excited that our mayor in January talked about really opening and increasing those resources, so from the lens that we live in, our primary focus is our own students.

Our food pantry has just extended resources to provide food for our students, I think, from three to five days a week. That’s a really big deal. We recognize that food insecurity is a big issue nationally but also for our students. … Also there is state legislation that has recently passed to provide limited shower access for displaced students in the area. That was recently enacted in January, so for students who are interested in that, we’d like to direct students to our office of EOP to provide those.”

What does the future hold for bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges, and will City eventually offer a four-year degree?

“There was previous legislation that provided a pilot to 15 (colleges), so our hope is that through legislation, which our chancellor has been involved in state-wide, that the hope is to expand the pilot, and be given that opportunity. I know they were talking to the legislature to help us move forward for a way of promoting a bill that would expand the pilot to more colleges, and absolutely, City is interested in being a part of that, in particular, for our nursing program.”

City College currently offers free tuition for students of some San Diego area high schools. Is there a plan to expand this program?

“It’s sort of an iterative process. The opportunity to provide tuition to as many students as we can is tremendous on a lot of different levels, so we’ve gone from 200 to 600 additional students. We want to make sure that we do that, and we do that well. Our program is really good because it provides fee support for students, so we’re watching that carefully to expand. it would also be great if we could expand BOG (California Board of Governors Fee Waiver) overall.