UCLA is buying a new campus to boost admissions

In a milestone to expand enrollment at the nation’s most popular university by creating a satellite campus, UCLA announced Tuesday that it is buying two large properties owned by Marymount California University, a small Catholic institution in Rancho Palos Verdes , which closed its doors last month.

UCLA’s $80 million purchase of Marymount’s 24.5-acre campus and a The 11-acre residential development in nearby San Pedro marks the university’s most significant expansion to meet increasing demand for seating. UCLA drew nearly 140,000 applications in its first year for about 6,600 places in autumn 2021 and even more applications this year — sparking fear among the growing legions of rejected Californians and pressure from state legislatures to reduce the number of out-of-state students.

But UCLA, whose 419-acre Westwood footprint is the smallest of UC’s nine college campuses, has no room to grow, prompting the campus to seek alternatives.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the Marymount California properties — the university’s largest land acquisition of all time — could accommodate 1,000 students and potentially house half of them on the 81-mansion residential lot. Satellite campuses are just one of several strategies UCLA is developing to accommodate about 3,000 more undergraduates and 350 more graduate students by 2030, he said.

“That’s our commitment to the people of California,” Block said in an interview. “We recognize that there is frustration among the number of young people wanting to enter our research universities and this is, in a significant way, our response to that need.”

The university will use general revenue bonds, a common form of financing, to initiate large capital projects to pay for the real estate.

UCLA will buy Marymount California University, a small Catholic institution in Rancho Palos Verdes that has been closed.

UCLA will buy Marymount California University, a small Catholic institution in Rancho Palos Verdes that has been closed.

(Marymount California University)

The UC Board of Regents, driven by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators, has made increasing enrollment a top priority as enrollments continue to grow at record levels. President Michael V. Drake and campus principals recently outlined a plan to increase enrollment by at least 20,000 students — and potentially up to 33,000 — by 2030.

UC does not plan to build a new campus due to time and cost constraints. However, campus leaders are working on plans to accommodate more students with expanded online courses, summer specials, off-campus programs and additional support to help students graduate faster, which would free up spots.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, in a presentation to UC Regents last week, outlined plans for NASA-owned satellite programs at Moffett Field that would focus on aerospace science and engineering. She also said that Berkeley is considering possible plans to develop one of its properties in Richmond to expand capacity for more students and research.

UC Davis is building Aggie Square, an “innovation hub” on its Sacramento campus that will include science and technology buildings and dormitories. The campus estimates that a few hundred students can spend a quarter there.

UCLA’s opportunity with Marymount California opened in April when board members at the private institution voted to close the university, which was founded in 1968 as a two-year junior college by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Nine years ago, the college changed its name and expanded into a four-year university.

Like other small colleges struggling to survive, Marymount, California, had seen enrollment decline — from a peak of about 1,000 in 2014 to about 500 this year — and tuition was shrinking. After efforts to merge with Florida’s St. Leo University fell through in April, the board took the hard step of closing its doors and selling the property, said Brian Marcotte, president of Marymount, California.

“It was really heartbreaking,” Marcotte said. “We had a very unique campus. It was a place where students really thrived. And it was very hard to think that this was going to end.”

The university helps its students transfer to other institutions, including the University of La Verne.

Marymount California University offers incredible views of Catalina and the Pacific Ocean

A small Catholic institution in Rancho Palos Verdes, Marymount California University offers incredible views of Catalina and the Pacific Ocean.

(Marymount California University)

Marymount California had no shortage of admirers, drawn by its beautiful location on a scenic bluff on the Palos Verdes Peninsula overlooking Santa Catalina Island and tide pools just a five-minute drive away. Shortly after the university announced it would sell the property, 285 inquiries were received and 41 formal offers were made, Marcotte said. They’ve been narrowed down to seven, with bids that are close in price but have different visions, he said.

The finalists included four developers and three educational institutions, whom Marcotte declined to name. But he and the board “felt very strongly for UCLA” because of its vision to preserve the culture of small colleges as satellite campuses for diverse undergraduates, its status as one of the world’s top public universities, and its financial capacity to complete the deal and programs start on time.

For his part, Block said he was saddened by the closure of Marymount, California, but grateful that UCLA was chosen to administer the sites.

He said he and his team fell in love with the properties when they visited in the spring. The campus and residential area, which currently houses 81 two- and three-bedroom villas, form an intimate community, he said. The UCLA students studying at the satellite campus could live there, Block said.

The pages also offer educational opportunities with their proximity to the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro Bay and AltaSea, a public-private company focused on marine sciences, where some UCLA faculty are already conducting research, he said.

Block said he expects the deal to close next month and that a campus task force with significant input from UCLA’s Academic Senate will decide how to use the new lots. He mused that they could potentially host a summer school for student leadership, a sustainability themed program, evening lectures for the community, and tutoring programs for local children. The programs could begin as early as next summer, he said, with fuller academic operations by the fall.

UCLA has not yet said how many students it will admit as 2023-24 freshmen who will apply this fall.

“We don’t know how we’re going to use it; We just felt it was the right strategy at the time,” said Block. “But we will continue the tradition of training a very diverse and motivated group of students.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-27/ucla-new-campus-boost-admissions-marymount-san-pedro UCLA is buying a new campus to boost admissions

Alley Einstein

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