State of LTCC: Transforming campus and culture of service (Opinion)
About a year ago, I delivered my State of the College Address for Lake Tahoe Community College under extraordinary circumstances. We were just getting back from all over the state due to the Caldor Fire evacuation. LTCC back-to-school activities had been canceled and fall quarter classes were finally launching after a delay. As a college, we all felt a collective sense of relief that our community was still standing, and gratitude for the public safety personnel who ensured that outcome.
A feeling of normalcy had begun to return. In the past year, LTCC hosted several events in person, and we saw campus come back to life. Then the Mosquito Fire erupted, bringing choking smoke and uncertainty into our lives again. This was a stark reminder of the threat wildfire brings to our community and region. Wildfire is now a regular part of life, and fire seasons are longer and more destructive. LTCC is committed to being part of the solution and is at the front lines of preparing the skilled workforce needed to combat this growing threat, and we are transforming our academic programs to meet the need.
This college and community are transforming before our eyes. We are witnessing transformation, and LTCC is committed to embracing it: the challenges and uncertainty that transformation brings, but also opportunities for growth and improvement.
Thanks to taxpayer support of the Measure F bond and additional state resources acquired through diligent advocacy, LTCC is transforming its physical campus. With on-campus residential living on the way, the services LTCC provides to students must transform as well.
LTCC secured several grants in 2021-22, with approximately $11 million coming in to support programs in Fire and Forestry, our new Hispanic Serving Institute STEM support program, the expansion of our Dual Enrollment program with South Tahoe High School and Mt. Tallac, and more. It’s been a red-letter grant year, and all the new funding will allow us to transform and expand student services that make success possible for more students.
LTCC is in the midst of a significant transformation that will change how we do business forever, and with it comes amazing outcomes for our students and community. With all the campus construction and related disruptions we’re a bit like the caterpillar that’s still in the chrysalis stage, but nearly ready to emerge as a fully formed, beautiful butterfly.
California Community Colleges’ Vision for Success asks that all colleges in our system focus on improving student outcomes in six target areas. The overall effort is meant to ensure that students from all backgrounds succeed in reaching their stated goals, regardless of their ethnicity or socio-economic history.
The work LTCC is doing on these measurables is a real point of pride. LTCC blew past the goal for a 20% increase in the number of students earning an AA degree, reporting a 62% increase in AA degrees awarded since 2016/17. In certificates awarded, LTCC surpassed the goal of a 20% increase, seeing a 59% increase in these credentials that offer earners real labor market value. For Associate Degrees for Transfer awarded, LTCC reported a whopping 121% increase, well above the 35% increase called for. We also leapfrogged over the goal to increase students achieving a living wage by 10%, seeing a 13% increase since 2016/17.
Each data point represents a real student whose life will be bettered for having a degree or certificate, and the career advantages they bring. It’s all about student outcomes at LTCC – if our students are succeeding, then we are as a college.
Funding to transform LTCC’s fire, forestry programs
LTCC is not just in response mode when it comes to forest management and fire protection: we are a big piece of the proactive solution. There is not enough professional staff in California to meet the growing forest management and fire protection needs, and LTCC is stepping up to fill that gap.
A new forestry program launched this fall with $34,000 in financial support from the Tahoe Fund making it possible to provide $1,000 scholarships for every first-year forestry student. The program offers an associate of science degree with the option to earn stackable certificates along the way.
LTCC’s Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy and other LTCC fire programs are also receiving significant dollars from private and public sources. The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation and the El Dorado Community Foundation both awarded $100,000 to support these public safety programs to purchase student gear and equipment with, allowing more students to enter and complete the program.
California Senators Feinstein and Padilla also helped secure $269,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending for LTCC’s Fire Academy, which was used to purchase mobile training equipment.
LTCC’s fire and forestry programs are receiving another $1.2 million in federal funding from the Foundation for California Community Colleges, which will support key staff additions and equipment purchases. All together, these grants lead to significant parentship and resource investments to add to the training of fire and forestry workforce in support of our region.
On-campus student housing and current construction
While LTCC transforms its academic offerings to better serve our community, we also are in the process of reimagining and rebuilding much of campus.
Construction is underway on LTCC’s Main Building entrance, all student support spaces and offices, and science, art, and computer labs. This large-scale effort has caused some bumps along the way, but the result will be a vastly transformed experience for our students and staff, with modern equipment and technology in place to improve student success.
With nearly $40 million of new state funding in hand, LTCC is now poised to bring affordable, on-campus living to eligible students with a targeted Spring 2023 groundbreaking. Plans call for a 32,000-square- foot, 100-bed facility with double-occupancy and some single-occupancy rooms that will house low- income, full-time students. Rents will start at $500/bed per month for double-occupancy rooms – well below South Lake Tahoe’s rental market rate.
These facilities and projects will vastly alter the look and feel of LTCC’s campus. They will also transform the way we operate and how we provide services. This campus is ready to move into a 24/7 support service culture to ensure our on-campus housing is a success.
Other announcements and upcoming actions
LTCC’s women’s and men’s Coyote soccer teams have seen great success since launching in 2014, with student-athletes completing degrees and transferring to four-year universities. In Fall 2023, LTCC will expand its collegiate athletic offerings by adding Cross Country Track. In Spring 2024, Long-Distance Track will also be added to our athletic mix.
In Spring 2024, LTCC will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Planning will begin shortly, and we hope our community and generous supporters join us in marking this major milestone in South Shore history. By the time LTCC turns 50, we’ll have emerged from our “construction chrysalis” as a transformed campus, with modern 24/7 services, programs, and facilities in place. We’ll be a beautiful butterfly, and we hope you’ll come fly with us.
These are just some of the highlights I shared in this year’s State of the College address. To hear about all the great news and achievements LTCC experienced in 2021/22, you can see more and view the entire speech at http://www.ltcc.edu/soca.
Jeff DeFranco is president and superintendent of Lake Tahoe Community College.
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