Jeff Jardine

Stockton folks want to break free of Turlock’s grip, get own CSU

For all of the size comparisons being made these days, consider this:

In 1974, California State University, Stanislaus – yes, little ol’ Turkey Tech down in Turlock – opened a satellite campus in Stockton. It seemed strange that Turlock, with a population of less than 20,000, had a four-year public university when a city of more than 125,000 did not, and even odder that the school from the smaller city controlled all aspects of the spinoff campus in the bigger one.

Turlock, with five freeway exits off Highway 99. Stockton, with three freeways slicing through the city. Stockton has an inland seaport. Turlock is 8 miles from the Merced River.

The Stockton satellite began in the state government building downtown. When it outgrew that space, it moved out to the San Joaquin Delta College campus. And by 1996, it took over part of what once was Stockton State Hospital at California Street and Harding Way, where it remains today. Over time, more than 10,000 students have studied there. The fall enrollment in 2016 included 549 students. Roughly 700 are in the extended education program, which includes undergraduate degrees in nursing, criminal justice, health science and social science, and offers an executive master’s in business degree. The campus can expand to handle up to 1,000 students.

That stated, folks in Stockton led by Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman – who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanislaus State – want Stockton to have its own California State University campus, untethered from Turlock.

“Why not Cal Poly Stockton?” she asked.

Stockton is home to University of the Pacific, a private four-year school that moved to the Valley in 1924. Stockton also has San Joaquin Delta College, with an enrollment of 18,600. It is the home to Humphreys and other private colleges.

With nearly 300,000 residents, the Port City not only is the largest city not to have a four-year public university, Eggman said, but also the largest not to have one within 40 miles (Sacramento State is 52 miles away and Stanislaus State is 48 miles). Former Stanislaus State Presidents Marvelene Hughes and Joe Sheley were big believers in the Stockton satellite, she said.

“But it is not a specific (budget) line item,” Eggman said. “When the economy gets rough, the funds all go to Turlock and (the Stockton campus) gets left out.”

Stockton, she said, can support a CSU. There’s just one problem: The state’s legislative analyst’s office determined that the state university system still has room to expand its existing campuses and that because each campus has expansion plans, “we believe a new campus is not warranted at this time,” its report concluded.

Someday, though, it will be, and supporters there, including Record columnist Michael Fitzgerald, want to see local officials begin laying the groundwork now. State universities don’t appear with a magical stroke of a pen. They often are decades in the making.

“We want to put our marker down,” Eggman said.

Stanislaus State officials, including new President Ellen Junn, were in meetings in Sacramento and couldn’t be reached Monday. But it is likely they would not oppose Stockton breaking off into its own school when the time comes.

In fact, Stanislaus folks could feel like proud parents after graduation. After all, you raise them to be on their own someday.