Guest column: Making Lake Tahoe Community College California’s premier destination community college | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: Making Lake Tahoe Community College California’s premier destination community college

Jeff DeFranco
Guest Column

Fall classes just started at Lake Tahoe Community College, where I'm also starting my ninth month as superintendent/president and my sixth year working at the college.

Since starting as president in January, I've talked with many people – students, staff, faculty, community members, business owners, local government officials – about their hopes for LTCC's future and what role they'd like to see the college take in developing a more positive future for South Lake Tahoe.

That "listening tour" feedback became a key part of my recent State of the College Address, delivered during convocation activities leading up to the start of school. I wanted to share some highlights with you from that feedback and from my address so you understand what LTCC is focusing on, and why.

First, some highly positive feedback to share: the community told me loud and clear that they know LTCC has a world-class faculty who are experts in their fields, and that the small class sizes and personalized attention and support our students receive is a special attribute that truly sets LTCC apart.

Ensuring that these messages are getting heard not just locally, but outside of the Tahoe Basin, is a priority for us in reaching our vision to become California's premier destination community college.

Another top priority is to reaffirm the college's accreditation this fall, ensuring that our students are earning transferable credits and degrees that are nationally recognized. We are also focused on opening the doors to the Lisa Maloff University Center in Fall 2018, where four-year academic programs will be housed. If you haven't been on LTCC's campus recently, please stop by to see this magnificent, soaring building take shape. When it opens, the University Center will be a game changer for the South Shore, creating a permanent home for bachelor's degree options in our community.

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Another major area of focus for us is on removing student barriers to college access, success and completion. We recognize that there are many stumbling blocks that can keep bright, motivated people from realizing their academic, professional and personal goals.

One way we're tearing down these barriers is by offering more free textbooks and other class materials, with the ultimate goal of being able to offer students the ability to earn a two-year college degree without having to pay for a single textbook.

Another cost-saving effort I'm pleased to announce: starting this October, current LTCC college ID cards can be used for free rides on Tahoe Transportation District buses, so transportation won't be an issue when trying to get to class. The college also continues to explore affordable, on-campus residential living options to help ease our local housing crisis and remove housing costs as a barrier to students. This year, LTCC is working on identifying a residential living development partner to bring this concept to campus.

Another major part of my State of the College Address was devoted to drawing a picture of what LTCC's student body looks like now and the kinds of changes we've seen in recent years in that regard. We're now significantly more diverse than we were just a few years ago.

We not only serve the Tahoe Basin, but students from 42 states and 24 countries around the world. Our college now much better reflects the actual demographic make-up of our community, with a notable increase in the number of Latino students served.

We also have many more first-generation college students on campus as well – people who are the first in their immediate families to attend college. Even the kinds of programs our students are seeking is changing: five years ago, our largest academic program was mathematics. Today, it's fire science, and the growth in this and other "career & technical education" programs at LTCC is noteworthy. Understanding these changes and reacting to shifting demographics and academic needs is crucial to LTCC's future.

While LTCC is focused on creating stronger connections with South Tahoe High School and George Whittell High School, among other local partners, we also recognize that in order to grow, we must continue to strive toward reaching our college's vision: to become California's premier destination community college.

That means increasing our marketing efforts to draw students from elsewhere in California and beyond by partnering with other colleges to bring more affordable, high-quality four-year degree options to campus, by putting more resources into academic programs that make sense for our community and region, and by continuing to use Measure F bond money to improve classroom and campus technology and create modern learning spaces that today's students demand.

The next time you're on Al Tahoe Boulevard, make the turn and come visit LTCC's campus. A number of bond-funded projects were completed this summer that not only look great, but also provide our students with a safer, smarter, world-class learning environment.

The main parking lot is now finished, with a new heated walkway running through it to ensure safe winter trekking into class. There is a beautiful new plaza located in front of the library building that provides extra outdoor learning space and a great location for campus events. You'll see major improvements in the Physical Education building, the Main Building Commons, and in the Roberta Mason Library too, which after some summer construction now houses all of LTCC's tutoring and academic support services in addition to thousands of books, magazines, DVDs and more.

I welcome your feedback on these and many more changes taking place at Lake Tahoe Community College. If you'd like to share your thoughts, please email me at President@ltcc.edu. If you'd like to watch my State of the College Address, please visit my webpage at http://www.ltcc.edu/president.

Jeff DeFranco is the superintendent/president at Lake Tahoe Community College.

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