SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- There has been a recent increase in college opportunities in Santa Maria.
Over the past several months, new colleges and programs have opened, providing students with additional educational choices.
At Allan Hancock College, students can now earn a bachelor's degree through a new partnership with the University of La Verne.
"The University of LaVerne, having them come in and offer these degrees at CSU prices has been transformative for our students," said Kevin Walthers, President/Superintendent. "That first year, we are underway with that program and the students are doing really well. They will come out with a bachelors degree that will let them get a job with local businesses, city county government and things like that and it will be a good program for for them that we can build on and expand in the future."
The new La Verne program began this past fall and is just entering its second semester.
"Right now we are offering organizational management," said Walthers. "There is a cohort of about 30 students moving through that. They take a couple classes on short-term cycles and then next year we would like to bring in a business program, maybe a public administration degree. Just the kind of degrees that people here on the Central Coast can use and our local industries are telling us they need as well."
About a mile away near the busy intersection of Broadway and Stowell Road, San Joaquin Valley College just opened its first class earlier this week on Monday.
"We are very excited being here in the Santa Maria community and serving the population," said campus president Alyssa Perry.
The business college has 17 campuses across California, including one it opened just last year in Atascadero.
"San Joaquin Valley College is new to the Central Coast, but we've been around for quite a while," said Perry. "We have a long-standing history. We've been family, owned and operated for about 43 years. We serve about 5,000 students and now we are bringing six of our programs to the Santa Maria location. We offer medical assisting, medical office administration, pharmacy technician, criminal justice corrections, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and business office administration."
Perry said the college hopes to add more programs in the future.
Classes start about every five weeks. Students can earn certificates or degrees between 8-to-15 months, depending on the program.
"We are a career college that offers programs is medical, technical and business career fields and so we do a lot of hands-on training. We offer small classroom sizes and a lot of one-on-one time with our instructors and so our students get to learn these skills in the classrooms that they're going to be putting to use in the field once they start their employment."
Next year, A.T. Still University, which specializes in osteopathic healthcare, is set to open a campus in the new CoastHills Credit Union building on Betteravia Road.
The Missouri-based school had planned to start class this July, but had to push back its opening to 2021.
Creating greater educational opportunities has been a longtime goal for the City of Santa Maria, so much, it's been an official city priority for several years.
"Higher education is definitely very important," said Mark van de Kamp, Santa Maria Public Information Manager. "It will provide locals with an opportunity to stay in town and further their education and get great skills rather than leave and it also provide the local employers with a pipeline of talent."