Roseville/Placer News

Roseville vision of university hub taking shape

The City of Roseville’s multipronged quest to transform itself into a higher education hub took a step forward Wednesday as officials from four institutions announced their intentions to join Sierra College in operating a joint university center at the community college’s existing Roseville site.

The colleges joining the city and Sierra College in signing a memorandum of understanding are Sacramento State, University of the Pacific, Brandman University and William Jessup University.

Complementing the decade-long effort by developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, in 2011 the city created a task force aimed at wooing institutions. The overriding belief of the task force – supported by the City Council – is that bringing more higher education opportunities creates a more educated workforce, which in turn attracts desirable high-wage jobs.

“An educated workforce is a key factor for businesses deciding where to locate,” said Mike Isom, a staffer for the city task force.

Recent research seems to support the city’s efforts. A February study by the Milken Institute found that communities in which education attainment increased also saw increased wages. The study found that adding one extra year to the average schooling of employed workers resulted in a 10.5 percent increase in real gross domestic product per capita.

The schools themselves also offer quality jobs. A campus the size of Santa Clara University, which has 6,000 students, would have a $1 billion impact on the community, according to a 2006 study commissioned by the city.

As a secondary goal, Roseville would like to attract either a joint campus or a standalone university to its downtown area. The hope is that the student population would help bring life to the downtown and Old Town areas.

The joint university center isn’t the only game in town. A delegation of Placer County officials is expected to travel to Coventry, England, later this month to continue the exploration of bringing a satellite campus of the University of Warwick to farmland just west of the Roseville that was donated by Tsakopoulos. Meanwhile, a long-dormant plan to build a Sacramento State satellite campus in Placer County was revived last month after a development company acquired the land that would house the campus. Both projects are years away from happening.

“South Placer wants to be a hub for higher education. In our opinion the more, the merrier,” Isom said.

The agreement signed by university officials Wednesday calls for them to share Sierra College’s Gateway campus at 333 Sunrise Boulevard for the time being. Willy Duncan, Sierra College’s superintendent and president, said with the lease of the facility set to expire July 1, 2015, Sierra’s long-term interest is a permanent, school-owned site. He said a site that would meet the city’s interest in a downtown campus would have to pencil out, but didn’t rule out doing it with other university partners.

Duncan said the Gateway site has sufficient classroom space to add additional classes without sacrificing the school’s existing offerings. He said Sierra College students would benefit from having easier transfer options and might be able to complete their degree programs without leaving Placer County. Talks have already begun on what classes and programs each school might offer. While the MOU is non-binding, Duncan said he was confident something will come of it.

“I really think in the fall of 2014 you will have one more of these schools offering classes at the gateway center,” Duncan said.

The goal is to have all five schools offering classes by then, Isom said.

“The University Center is an innovative way to bring together multiple degree offerings from excellent universities in a convenient location for area residents,” said Councilman Tim Herman. “We appreciate the commitment and willingness of each of these universities to work together and explore new ways of making degree attainment more accessible in this region.”

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