MERCED -- Merced College President Ron Taylor said the college is in a tough spot, but remains optimistic about it coming out stronger once some of the challenges are addressed.
"We have an accreditation sanction to improve, and we have budget challenges," he said.
Taylor, 61, who recently took over the helm at Merced College and is now settling into the area with his wife, Patricia, said some of his priorities actually intersect with those challenges.
"If we would address the accreditation in a very thorough way, we would actually start getting to some of my priorities," he continued.
For example, the college has to make improvement with its communication as part of addressing its accreditation concerns. But that's also one of Taylor's priorities -- to have better communication on campus.
"What I would like to do, is, I want to work in a college that actually knows itself very well -- it promotes itself very well," he said. "As it's promoting itself and educating students, it basically improves on what it does constantly. That will make it a stronger and more efficient college."
The college was placed on a warning status last summer by the accreditation commission. The college submitted a follow-up report in March detailing how it had addressed the commission's concerns and recommendations. However, the commission issued its findings in July, requesting that the college submit another follow-up report in March 2013.
The college is now working on its follow-up report and continuing the efforts to address the commission's concerns that began last year, he said. "I expect that sanction to be lifted next July when they review our report," Taylor said.
He also wanted to remind people that a warning status is the lightest sanction and called "a healthy process" because the commission wanted the college to show continued progress.
Another priority for Taylor is for the college to be more aggressive in coming up with other sources of funding, which intersects with the college's budget woes.
"How much can we do in securing new sources of revenue, given the fact that the state's commitment to funding community colleges with public funds has dwindled over the last two years?" he said.
Eyes on tax initiative
Merced College officials and other public educators are waiting to see the outcome of Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax initiative. If the measure passes, it would be a big relief for institutions such as Merced College that are struggling with funding issues.
But college officials also need to be proactive about finding other funding sources, he said.
"While we are waiting, I'm studying the fact if we can go out to find sources to supplement what the state can't do," Taylor said. "We are looking at grant options right now. I hope, (in) the next few months, to look at private foundation funding and just other sources in general."
At the same time, the diminishing state funding for four-year colleges can be a window of opportunity for Merced College.
With the University of California and the California State University systems increasing their tuition and cutting back on enrollment, Taylor said, Merced College could see some growth. He said Merced College would be a excellent alternative for students who can't get into four-year schools and urged parents to consider it.
As part of the college's long-term priorities, Taylor said, any new programs it develops in the future would likely be placed at the Los Banos campus -- another potential growth opportunity.
In the next 10 to 20 years, he said, Merced College could also expand to better serve other communities in the region.
In terms of programs, Taylor hopes the college will be able to maintain strong ones such as nursing while expanding those in renewable energy and technology.
"It's clearly a federal priority now," he said of he need for programs in those area.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.