The Star-News

Done deal undone

Sat, Sep 07 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno

The Sweetwater Union High School District withdrew its application for a conditional use permit Aug. 21 that would have housed Alliant International University at the National City Adult School, said district spokesman Manny Rubio.

A ruling by the National City Planning Commission to decide if it would have granted the district a conditional use permit was expected to be heard at the Sept.16 commission meeting.

However, Alliant President Geoffrey Cox said the college and the school district are “moving on” with plans of bringing the first four-year institution to the South Bay.

“We are talking with the Sweetwater district about other locations, and yes, we will plan to provide classes in the South Bay next semester,” Cox said. “I don’t know exactly where that will be yet.”

Rubio said the district withdrew the application because it would have been a disservice to students attending Alliant had they missed the start of the fall semester.

Allie Pruitt, who sits on National City’s Planning Commission, said it is common for applicants to withdraw an application with the commission for any reason.

Alliant’s undergraduate campus director Dr. Guadalupe Corona said one possible destination for the university is at Sweetwater High School.

“My understanding is to return to a South Bay location, our main location will be Sweetwater High School,” she said.

“But that’s still under discussion; we will be coming back for spring.”

Brad Raulston, National City’s executive director, said school districts have their own permitting authority. He also said there could be some other permitting issues should Alliant decide to reside at the high school.

“I imagine there’s got to be some problems with that,” he said.

Raulston said the private use of institutional zoned land is a problem that may occur with Alliant operating from Sweetwater High School. Raulston said having a for-profit university in a public school might cause  some issues.

Rubio said Alliant is a not-for-profit school, and that there shouldn’t be any permitting issues if Alliant was located on district property.

“As long as it’s for educational purposes, we can make changes to a property,” he said.

The Sweetwater district does not own the property where the adult school is; therefore, the district needed a conditional use permit for Alliant.

Rubio added that if Alliant lands on district property, then the district wouldn’t displace anyone on that property.

A partnership between the Sweetwater district and the private university dubbed Alliant at Sweetwater has been at the center of controversy ever since the district wanted to use the adult school as a satellite campus for Alliant.

The planning commission halted those plans when they discovered that the school district failed to obtain a conditional use permit for Alliant to use the facility.

Critics argued that the Sweetwater district – the largest secondary school district in California – should not spend taxpayer dollars on a private university.

Sweetwater board member Bertha Lopez is one of those critics. The two-term board member voiced her opposition to Alliant possibly residing at the adult school at an Aug. 19 planning commission meeting.

“We’re in the business of educating seven through 12 in adult, and that adult school was basically made for an adult school,” Lopez previously said.

Without any financial aid assistance, tuition to attend Alliant this fall semester as an undergraduate is $620 per unit.

That equals out to nearly $15,000 a year for a full-time student, according to Alliant’s website.

Corona said despite not having a campus in the region, recent graduates of the district are still enrolled at Alliant.

Alliant is sending its students from South County to Alliant’s main campus in Scripps Ranch.

Alliant has made every effort to ease the burden of transportation for its students, Corona said

“Transportation has not been a challenge at this point because we provide the free shuttle service for them,” Corona said.

© 2009 The Star-News