Guest column: Lake Tahoe Community College 2018 year in review (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: Lake Tahoe Community College 2018 year in review (opinion)

Jeff DeFranco
Guest Column

This past year, my second as president, was a remarkable one at Lake Tahoe Community College.

Our trustees, staff, faculty and administrative team all worked diligently to complete several major projects and launch new programs that are enhancing our students' experience, creating access to college for more people, and are helping to put LTCC and its community on the state and national map.

Below are a few of the highlights we want our community to know and feel great about. These initiatives, projects and programs are creating more opportunities for our town's residents and are raising the bar on what can be achieved locally through education.

University Center Opens

The faculty, staff, administrators and trustees at LTCC are excited about what 2019 will bring, including the possibility of two free years of college and the sea change that would bring to California.

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The Lisa Maloff University Center (LMUC) at LTCC is open for business, providing access to advanced college degrees on the South Shore for the first time. LTCC has three partners offering a variety of bachelor's degrees and teacher credentialing options.

In 2018, Brandman University became our second partner, bringing a bachelor's in liberal and applied studies, along with a multiple discipline teaching credential, allowing basin residents to earn what's needed to become a teacher. Brandman will also offer a master's in education and a doctorate of education in organizational leadership degree starting in fall 2019.

Our newest partner, Washington State University, has one of the best-rated hospitality management programs in the country. They'll bring a bachelor's program in hospitality business management to the LMUC in fall 2019.

For the thousands of people working in hospitality jobs throughout the Tahoe Basin, this is a huge opportunity to expand your options through education and take your career to a new level. For more, visit http://www.ltcc.edu/4year.

College Promise Launch, Expansion

LTCC launched its free year of tuition program, called the Lake Tahoe College Promise, in fall 2018. Thanks to a few key donations, the program has already expanded and is now available all around the lake, on both sides of the California-Nevada border.

LTCC is the only college in the country to offer a bi-state Promise program providing a tuition-free year of college regardless of which side of the state line a prospective student lives on. This is LTCC committing itself to serving its community as it actually exists.

You can read more about this groundbreaking program in Forbes magazine's Education blog: bit.ly/ForbesTahoePromise.

Coyote Soccer Nationally Ranked

LTCC's women's team made it all the way to the California state finals in 2018, finishing their season ranked No. 3 in the country. The men made it to the third round of the regional playoffs, finishing with a No. 14 national ranking.

For the first time in program history, two of the Coyote student-athletes made the 2018 Scholar All-America Team for Junior Colleges, reflecting the program's emphasis on excellence both in the classroom and on the pitch. Congratulations to the coaches and players on yet another outstanding season.

Coyote Legacy Plaza Unveiled

Located between LTCC's physical education building and our world-class soccer field, this plaza serves as an important gathering place supported by generous donors who care about college spirit. The plaza's floor is made up of custom-engraved pavers purchased by community members, businesses, alums and parents. It's crowned by a bronze coyote statue that serves as an on-campus gathering place and photo backdrop.

To join our plaza supporters with your own custom engraved paver, visit http://www.ltcc.edu/giving.

Record-Breaking Fundraising

Scholarships make it possible for our hardest-working and brightest students to continue their educations, earn a degree, and launch a career. In 2018, LTCC's Foundation set a record for scholarship fundraising, making it possible for us to hand out 132 awards worth $148,000. That's up 30 percent from 2017 — thank you to everyone in the community who gives to the Foundation and provides opportunity and access to education to our students.

Food Pantry Opens

Not having enough food to function properly is a problem everywhere, and especially on community college campuses. Many of our students face serious financial challenges, forcing them to make tough choices about how to spend their limited dollars. When rent is due or a car breaks down, basic food needs may not be met.

To serve our students' most basic needs, LTCC cut the ribbon on a new food pantry to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity. In addition to food and personal hygiene products, the pantry also offers valuable information and connections to local and state organizations that can help students with ongoing nutritional and other needs.

If you'd like to support LTCC's Food Pantry, email foodpantry@ltcc.edu.

Bond Ratings

LTCC issued its second set of general obligation bonds for sale in 2018 after receiving high marks for a second time from both Standard & Poor's (S&P) Financial Services and Moody's Investor Service. S&P raised the college's long-term rating from "AA-" in 2015 to "AA." Moody's reconfirmed LTCC's A1 rating and improved its outlook from stable to positive.

Compared to other schools in California's community college system, LTCC's last round of bond ratings put it in the best of company. We're at the top of the smallest eight colleges in the system, a group LTCC often compares itself to based on many shared factors.

Even more impressively, they put LTCC in the company of some of the higher bond-rated colleges in the system, including schools located in urban centers that serve many more students, receive more money from the state as a result, and that benefit from being located in more robust areas of the state with higher assessed property values.

Enrollment is Up!

LTCC saw a nearly 10 percent increase in campus-generated enrollment from fall 2017 to fall 2018. This is a very encouraging sign in difficult times: very few California community colleges are seeing enrollment increases.

Partly LTCC achieved this through the Lake Tahoe College Promise program, partly through our dual enrollment program with South Tahoe High School, and partly through an intentional diversification of our programs, both online and on campus, and including a growing incarcerated student program.

The faculty, staff, administrators and trustees at LTCC are excited about what 2019 will bring, including the possibility of two free years of college and the sea change that would bring to California. We're continuing to improve the campus, transforming it into a destination institution with the latest technology and modernized facilities.

You'll soon receive our latest bond annual report in your mailbox, sharing the financials and updates on bond projects that your tax dollars are supporting. It is making a difference, and elevating LTCC onto the state and national stage. Thank you for your continued support of our institution and students.

Jeff DeFranco is the superintendent/president at Lake Tahoe Community College. Visit his Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/jeffdefranco and email him at president@ltcc.edu.