$40 million loan to fund new ULV College of Health

Anabel Martinez
Editor-in-Chief

The University of La Verne continues to expand into Ontario with plans to build a new College of Health and Community Well-Being, and a $40 million loan from the city of Ontario to fund it.

The College of Health and Community Well-Being will include nine existing programs: master of science programs in athletic training, child life, and physician assistant practice; bachelor of science programs in health administration, kinesiology, and psychology; a master of health administration program; master of family therapy in psychology; and doctorate in psychology program, President Devorah Lieberman said.

Additionally, a new two-year RN to BSN program designed for registered nurses with an associates degree to increase their higher education will be fully online. Enrollment is still underway and is set to begin this fall with 30 available spots and 30 in spring 2023. Lieberman anticipates full enrollment.

The College of Health and Community Well-Being is expected to physically open in a new Ontario building in 2024.

“Our College of Law is in downtown Ontario, so expanding the role of higher education institutions was something that (Ontario) was looking into,” the University’s Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian said. “They’ve tried this in the past with a couple of other institutions and they have not been successful, but negotiations between La Verne and Ontario ended up being very positive. It was a win-win both for the city of Ontario, as well as for the University of La Verne.”

The University and city of Ontario agreed on a real estate exchange, meaning the College of Law parking lot would be traded for approximately 40,000 square feet of land on the original Ontario Fire Station One on 425 E. B Street, which would house the new college, and 13 acres of property surrounding Toyota Arena on 4000 Ontario Center to construct the new building.

A 15,000-square-foot building on 208 W. Emporia Street in Ontario is also an option for purchase.

The $40 million loan, a number projected by the University six months ago based on construction and furnishing needs, is expected to cover only the construction and furnishing costs of the building. The loan was approved in April 2021 after the city of Ontario approached the University with the idea for this agreement.

“We heard that there was an opportunity in Ontario to get some property, and possibly a building that could be where the College of Health is housed,” Kathy Duncan, professor of management, said. “We’re tight on places on campus. And our physician assistant program is currently in rented space up on Bonita (Avenue in Pomona) and so the need for more space is something that’s been considered all along.”

Duncan is also faculty representative of the Board of Trustees, where she reports faculty feedback. Being a former registered nurse, she is also on the task force to build this new college and acts as an adviser to the administration of the College of Health and Community Well-Being.

Kechichian said the University considered a variety of options to finance the building’s construction, like internally issuing a bond, leasing a building in the city of Ontario and renovating a different Ontario property, but found the loan to be the smartest financial option.

The University has 30 years to pay back the $40 million loan, with a leeway for the first five years where no loan payments need to be made. The loan currently stands at an interest rate of 2.75% but is expected to increase annually, Kechichian said.

“It will change on an annual basis because it will depend on (Ontario’s) ability to earn more, or less, of the money that they’re investing for the city so it would possibly increase every year,” Kechichian said. “Over the last 10 years or so, my understanding is that at the height, the city was able to make an average of 2% so if past history is something we look at, at most it’ll be 4%.”

University Advancement plans to depend on fundraising to pay back the loan, so as not to pull from the University’s budget, Kechichian said.

“University Advancement has developed a plan that will fund the College and repay the loan,”  Lieberman said in an emailed statement this week. “The fundraising campaign will span four years. We have a start with gifts already totaling $4 million for construction, programming and scholarships.”

To date, ULV has received a $2.3 million donation from class of 1964 alumna Frances Ware, to fund the new nursing programs. The nursing programs will be named after her late husband John A. Ware, a former pharmacist and teacher, in appreciation of her generosity.

At this year’s scholarship gala, Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital pledged to donate $720,000 in scholarships for students of the new nursing program.

“The Board of Trustees set the vision for the new college as the transformative initiative that is aligned with our mission to serve our students and to serve our region,” Lieberman said. “That is exactly what this new College will achieve. Additionally, it will graduate students in the health professions that are most needed in our region and will provide outstanding careers for our students.”

Though the loan was announced in April 2021, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Brian Clocksin said this is an idea that has been baking for a while.

“Really, the roots of the College can be traced back to probably 2016,” Clocksin said. “President Lieberman formed the President’s Health Advisory Council of a variety of leaders from across our region and health care and the wellness space, looking at what the global needs in our region are around health and well-being.”

In February 2020, Clocksin began leading a task force with faculty members across the University to analyze the feasibility of launching a new college, which at the time was being called the College of Health.

“We identified a plan to be a College of Health and Community Well-Being to really look at the holistic aspects of health and wellness across a variety of dimensions of health, and proposed that to the board in May of 2020,” Clocksin said. “They adopted that as the strategic initiative for the 2025 transformational initiative for 2025 at their board meeting in May of 2020.”

Since June 2020, Clocksin and a variety of teams have been working to bring the College of Health and Community Well-Being to life.

When the city of Ontario approached the University with the possibility of building on Ontario property, they took the chance to jump start the idea for a new college.

“It took about a …  year and a half before we got to a final resolution but the city council, the Board of Trustees approved it,” Kechichian said. “The City Council of Ontario approved it at the tail end of last month.” 

With the University taking out a loan as large as $40 million – at a time when college enrollment is on the decline across the nation –  some in the community have expressed concerns regarding how the decision to build a new college might affect other programs and budgets.

“There are faculty who are concerned that money will be put into the new school and the new faculty and the new budgets, and the existing wonderful programs that we have are starving for attention,” Professor of Sociology Sharon Davis said. “Those individuals want assurances that they won’t be forgotten, that they will be fed, that their budgets and their staff will be up to acceptable levels.”

Kechichian said the University will not be pulling funds from existing programs, but instead projects that the new College of Health and Community Well-Being will generate revenue for not only the loan payment but to funnel into existing programs.

Estimated revenue for the new bachelor of science in nursing program after the first year is projected at over $500,000. Though the $500,000 revenue is a small number compared to the University’s overall budget of about $170 million, Kechichian said, it will begin to close the financial impact caused by the decline in overall enrollment, which was almost $30 million loss in revenue from Fall 2018 to 2021.

Duncan said the University believes this college is a smart financial choice, but is also a way to close the gap in health care jobs in underserved regions like in the Inland Empire. 

Duncan said with the RN to BSN program, working registered nurses will be able to reach higher education and employment opportunities.

“Some of the nearby hospitals want to have what’s called magnet status, which is a higher recognition of the quality of nursing care,” Duncan said. “They require a certain percentage of the nurses to have a bachelor’s…So there’s a shortage of nurses overload, but there’s also an increased demand for nurses who have at least a bachelor’s degree.”

However, Duncan also mentioned that some faculty believe the market of colleges of health is oversaturated and is also a basis for concern.

Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona has dedicated programs to the health field and Claremont’s Keck Graduate Institute School of Medicine opened up their new master of science in community medicine in the 2021-2022 academic year.

Many more colleges are projected to open new programs to fill the demand for nurses.

“There are a lot of colleges of health in the market,” Duncan added. “But our college is taking a very unique approach. It’s not just the College of Health, it’s the College of Health and Community Well-Being and that was very intentional. There’s going to be an emphasis in all the classes on the social determinants of health.”

Clocksin said the University already has ideas in mind to continue to progress ULV’s presence in the health education field with the help of the College of Health and Community Well-Being. 

The next step in ULV nursing programs will be a four-year undergraduate nursing degree, he said. 

Traditional undergraduate programs within the new College, like kinesiology and psychology, are anticipated to fully remain on the La Verne campus, Clocksin said. Exceptions to this include the online RN to BSN program and the planned future undergraduate bachelor’s of science in nursing program, which will go back and forth between the Ontario and La Verne locations.

“The first two years of their four years is largely general education and prerequisites,” Clocksin said. “So those would be held on campus, then we would probably have the nursing facilities, the simulation labs, in Ontario. And so they would shift after their first two years to be more largely in Ontario for their programs.”

At the moment, there are no plans for housing on the Ontario campus, and the primary goal for future nursing students going back and forth between the La Verne and Ontario campuses would be aiding in transportation through Gold Line passes, public transportation or a form of shuttle service.

“Certainly, one of the exciting things in the next two years as we think about when that new campus will be ready, is the Gold Line will have to stop right at our campus as well as a stop by Ontario… as a way to facilitate easy transportation back-and-forth for not only students, but faculty and staff as well,” Clocksin said.

The College of Health and Community Well-Being is still a work in progress but the University hopes to continue integrating and emphasizing health care in other programs, Clocksin said. 

“Our Health Service Management program is doing a concentration in health analytics, and another one in health care supply chain management that the Masters of Health Administration students can take,” Clocksin said. “(We’re) talking with the College of Education about doing a medical pedagogy certificate, so for doctors and nurses and PA’s that want to go into teaching, and work with programs and help educate the next generation.”

There has also been talk of putting a focus on developing relationships with pharmacy schools, local community hospitals, other universities with graduate programs in health and more – with the intention of broadening pathways for University of La Verne students with a desire to join the health care field.

Clocksin said at the moment, the University plans on hiring two new full-time faculty members for the College of Health and Community Well-Being.

The search for a dean to sit at the forefront of the College still continues. 

“This is the first new college for the University in a number of years,” Clocksin said. “So that notion of transformational inspirational leader is certainly somebody we’re looking for in that role. We are, again, thinking holistically in the field of health and well-being so it doesn’t have to be a clinician, like a doctor or a nurse or physician assistant, but somebody that has an understanding of both the clinical aspect of health and well-being, as well as a community medicine and public health aspects of health and well-being… leadership experience in higher education or health care.”

Clocksin said the University has had a very robust pool of candidates and has interviewed over 20 for the dean position. 

“We anticipate to do two or three more here in the next month before the semester ends, hopefully, to make sure that we get the right candidate and campus community gets a chance to interact with those candidates,” Clocksin said.

Anabel Martinez can be reached at anabel.martinez2@laverne.edu.

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Anabel Martinez is a senior digital media major with a concentration in film and television, and a journalism minor. She serves as the managing editor overseeing all of the Campus Times sections and was previously editor-in-chief in Spring 2022.

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