On Monday, June 27, it became public that the California Assembly and Senate reached a budget agreement with Governor Gavin Newsom that includes $79 million for expanding the CSU San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus capacity to 4,000 students. These funds will serve as the foundation to build out our campus in a way that delivers the college experience to the students who attend the Palm Desert Campus. It is anticipated that Governor Newsom will sign the budget on Thursday, June 30, to set the project in motion.

Priority One Coachella Valley

In early 2020, Priority One Coachella Valley (P1CV) was formed to take actions to pursue funding to expand the Palm Desert Campus with a new Student Success Center. The board of directors included representatives from the City of Palm Desert, Visit Greater Palm Springs, the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the City of Coachella, and the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). Joe Wallace, the CEO and Chief Innovation Officer of CVEP was installed as the CEO of P1CV. An advisory board of roughly thirty members of the Coachella Valley’s leaders were also recruited to assist with the efforts.

The City of Palm Desert stepped up with seed money of $150,000 to start P1CV and have been joined by all the cities in the Coachella Valley, Visit Greater Palm Springs and several private businesses that realize how impactful a full-service university will be. At the time P1CV was formed, our region was the only region in California with a population nearing 500,000 people without a campus. It was also pointed out graphically in a study released by CVEP that we were more than fifty miles from a full-service state university. Our timing could not have been better, and the time is now to move quickly to accelerate the economic impacts and elevate the potential of the entire region.

Economic Impact

In 2019 the California State University system published a study on the economic impact of their two universities in the Inland Empire (CSUSB and Cal Poly Pomona) on the region. The conclusion of that study was that each student on campus results in an annual economic impact of $32,463. In a separate study commissioned by Visit Greater Palm Springs the impact was estimated to be $35,775 per student. Using this data, it is reasonable to expect the direct annual economic impact of a 4,000-student campus to be between $130 million and $150 million per year.

The eventual goal is still to see the Cook Street campus become the 24th campus of the CSU system with a capacity to serve 8,000 students in a range of majors that result in skills and knowledge that will pay a thriving wage. Four of the new majors (cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, physician’s assistant, and hospitality management) are already either in place or will be in the next few years.

Workforce and More

The tangible impacts while important are just the beginning of what can be expected to enhance the economic prosperity of the Coachella Valley’s future. Critical metrics like educational actualization will be increased along with the future earning capacity of local graduates. A university will allow local businesses like our healthcare sector to hire locally from a stable and predictable workforce. It must be pointed out that big technology companies that have been driving progress and prosperity since the space race, typically choose to locate branch offices in locations that have a university that graduates the degrees that they depend on to innovate.

Expanding the Palm Desert Campus will open opportunities to eventually mount efforts to attract branch offices of big tech companies to hire our new graduates into solid prosperous careers right here.

Additionally, the campus will inspire new investments designed to serve the campus community from residential housing, apartments, retail, recreation, and restaurants. Being a short distance from the new Acrisure Arena may inspire athletic teams and events that typically are associated with college campuses.

Finally, the success of P1CV demonstrates clearly just what can be accomplished through properly funded regional actions that focus on critical needs. Assembly members Chad Mayes and Eduardo Garcia did the heavy lifting in Sacramento to secure this funding along with s360 who directed the efforts and communications with high-ranking state officials.

This campus expansion is the catalyst the Coachella Valley has needed to rise to meet the future with confidence and knowledge. It complements the College of the Desert and our K-12 system. This is our time to elevate, and we commend the investments and efforts of all who have supported this effort along with us.