Note: Fall classes at Palomar College begins on Aug. 17.
Time was, if you wanted to take courses at Palomar Community College, you had no choice but to make the trip to the San Marcos campus.
No more! These days, if you attend classes at the Palomar College Escondido Education Center, you don’t have to settle for anything less than the complete educational experience offered at the main campus. You don’t have to attend one or two classes at the Escondido campus and run off to San Marcos to attend the others. It is very possible to do it all at the Escondido campus.
The Palomar College Escondido Education Center underwent an extensive renovation two years ago that converted the campus from essentially a strip mall into a true college campus with the “academic” feel that is an important part of the college experience. The $10 million renovation was paid for by a bond, Prop. M, that included $694 million total and which was approved by the voters in 2006.
Tom Medel, Escondido Education Center Manager told the Times Advocate, “We focused on the exterior and on access and on making it more student friendly. It is now a lot more inviting.”
They also worked on the interiors, giving them new paint, new floors, new standard audio-visual friendly roofing. “We wanted to provide tables and chairs and a place to gather, study and socialize. So that the students don’t just take their classes and leave,” said Medel.
Medel, who has been manager of the center for six years and with the college for 14 years, noted that the Palomar College Escondido Education Center serves a core population of Valley Center, Ramona, Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo and 4S Ranch, as well as many students from San Marcos and even Riverside County who also find it convenient. “We do serve a niche here,” he noted.
If it’s a niche, it’s a big one! Of course, the Palomar College district is pretty large, serving 2,500 square miles, a quarter of San Diego County. That’s about the size of Rhode Island.
An academic campus in Escondido proper definitely serves a need in that city. Medel estimates that the campus serves about 4,000 students currently, and could serve as many as 5,000. It has 35 classrooms that are occupied morning, noon and night.
“There are some community colleges in California that are smaller than this center,” observed Medel. “Sometimes we refer to ourselves as a ‘mini-college.’ ”
Laura Gropen, of the college’s public affairs office, observed, “It’s an important resource that serves an important population.”
“We want to mirror the community. This is a perfect campus for residents from Valley Center, Pauma Valley, and, of course Escondido.”
An example of the “one stop shopping” nature of the Escondido Education Center isthe services that are offered to veterans. Although veterans do need to go to the San Marcos campus to apply for admission, all other veterans’ services are available at the Escondido center. According to Gropen, “Palomar College’s veterans center is a model for veterans services in this region. We have set the bar for expediting veterans services.”
Unique to the Escondido campus is an EME (Emergency Medical Education) program, offering instruction and hands on training in paramedic and EMT, which is separate from the fire academy that the college system offers.
Also unique to the center: a program that offers students in high school the opportunity to take college courses that satisfy some of their high school credit requirements. Called “concurrent enrollment,” it allows a student to fast track some college courses that advance them towards his or her high school diploma and satisfy general ed requirements. This allows some students to enter a four-year college as sophomores. There is no charge except for the college health fee.
To take advantage of this program you need your application signed by a parent and a high school counselor.
“We’ve had some students as young as 13 take part in this program,” said Medel. Students under 16 need to be approved by a Palomar faculty member.
In addition to offering virtually all of the classes at the Escondido Center that are available in San Marcos, the Escondido Center offers something that San Marcos cannot: easy parking! The main campus can be a hassle to find parking, as anyone who has attended classes there can attest. The Escondido Center allows you in many cases to park right next to the building where your class is and walk right in.
“Parking is never at full capacity,” said Medel.
Of course, the Escondido center is not for everyone. “Some people want the big college feel and some people don’t,” said Medel. “Some just want to focus on the classes they are taking. But with this center you have a big campus that serves the entire community college district. We have a great relationship with Escondido High School District, which is just across the street from us. We’re integrated into this community very well!”
Even if you are not a student you can benefit from having the Palomar campus in Escondido. Several years ago Escondido lost one of its branch libraries to budget cuts. The Escondido campus has a library that the public can use, although individuals need to apply for a campus library card. That card is good at both the Escondido college library and the San Marcos main campus.
As noted above, Fall Palomar classes begin Aug. 17. Cost is $46 per unit. For more information about attending classes this fall, call 760-744-1150 or visit www.palomar.edu/Escondido