A partnership between the Sweetwater Union High School District and Alliant International University has caused a board member at a neighboring college to question whether the four-year university is worthwhile.
“I obviously have a lot of concerns with the deal that was made,” said Southwestern College Governing Board President Humberto Peraza.
Some of Peraza’s qualms about the agreement include the method in which the district is sending its students to Alliant.
Peraza said the district pushes a certain number of students to the college to reach its 50-student quota. Peraza added that students shouldn’t be pushed anywhere and should be making their own choices.
Peraza said the school district is trying to persuade its students to go to Allaint without giving them much choice.
Peraza said that a public school district should not be pushing good taxpayer dollars on a private university.
The Southwestern College Governing Board president also cited the high tuition as a concern.
“If Alliant wants to survive here on its own, and to be an option for the South Bay community, great,” Peraza said. “I don’t think it’s a great option at $620 a unit, but that’s an option certain people may want.”
Dr. Geoffrey Cox, president of Alliant International University, said the reason for the high cost of tuition is that Alliant is a private institution, which normally costs more to attend than a public university. Nonetheless, Cox said, Alliant is still affordable.
“Higher education is a good investment for students anywhere, whether in the South Bay or anywhere else,” Cox said. “We structured a package that at least among a private higher education, we think we are as cost effective as any institution I’m aware of.”
Cox said Alliant offers different scholarship packages and financial aid options that could help foot tuition.
Cox admitted there would be some students who will probably need to take out student loans to fund their education at Alliant, but Cox said taking out student loans is a common feature in the United States.
He said as long as student debt doesn’t become “overwhelming” then higher education is a good investment in a student’s future.
According to its Website, the price to attend Alliant this fall semester as an undergraduate is $620 that equals out to nearly $15,000 a year for a full-time student.
All junior colleges in the California Community Colleges system, which includes Southwestern College, saw an increase in tuition costs last summer from $36 to $46 a unit or just over $1,000 a year.
Peraza said Southwestern College has the same course offerings as Alliant.
Southwestern College’s 2013-2014 catalog lists majors in child development, psychology, criminal justice and business administration; those majors are also offered at Alliant.
The tuition cost at National University, a private not for profit college like Alliant, with a location on 660 Bay Blvd. in Chula Vista, has a tuition cost of $384 per quarter unit or $1,728 for a 4.5 quarter unit course.
t the University of San Diego, a private Roman Catholic University, tuition for the 2013-2014 school year is $40,900 or $20,450 per semester for full-time students.
Peraza said the price to pay for an Alliant education is too much for the quality of education a student will receive.
“If students want a Stanford style debt without the Stanford style education, then I think that is a great option for some people,” he said.
Cox concedes that his college is no Stanford. He also said the success rate at his college is not up to par, but he said he has been working on improving the graduation rates.
“We haven’t had a good success rate in recent years, we’ve been working hard to improve the graduation rates for undergraduates,” he said. “And it is currently in the 70 percent range and we think our students are going on to successful careers and opportunities after they leave us.”
Before Alliant can start billing students, it first needs to figure out where it will set-up shop. Alliant was originally supposed to be housed at the National City Adult School, but the National City Planning Commission stepped in and blocked that move.
The Sweetwater District failed to obtain a conditional use permit from the planning commission to allow Alliant University to share space at the adult school, the planning commission said.
National City Mayor Ron Morrison said his city is not involved with deciding if Alliant is worth attending, he said, they are solely involved in the permitting process.
“The only part that the city is involved in is basically a land use decision on the conditional use permit, the education aspects and everything else those are not part of our process.”
An emergency meeting for the planning commission about this issue is scheduled for Aug.19
Cox said if Alliant can’t be housed at the adult education building, then they will look for other alternatives.
“If the National City Council elects not to permit us to operate there, we’ll look at other options,” he said. “ We chose that (location) because we thought it was the best and most convenient option but it’s not the only option.”
Brian Clapper, a board member for the National School District that oversees elementary schools in National City, said he proudly took his daughter, a Sweetwater district alum, to enroll at Southwestern College and not at Alliant.
Clapper said enrolling his daughter in Southwestern College just made economic sense.
Peraza said the Alliant University and Sweetwater District partnership is just another headache caused by district superintendant Dr. Ed Brand.
“He (Brand) was brought in to help fix a situation, and he’s obviously failed in that respect, the situation there has gotten progressively worse,” Peraza said.
“He should go away, he should go on a very long vacation.”