Construction firms return prop. R funds

An architect and two construction companies that pleaded guilty to crimes in the South Bay Corruption Case will return some of the Proposition R money they were paid by former college officials who also admitted to crimes. BCA Architects, Echo Pacific Construction and Seville Construction Services agreed to refund $642, 000 of taxpayer-supported Proposition R funds to the Southwestern Community College District, although it is unclear how much each company will pay. The settlement is a small fraction of the Prop R funds already paid to the firms during the administration of Raj Kumar Chopra. The firms won lucrative contracts after providing tens of thousands of dollars of cash and gifts to former college officials. BCA Architects was given a …

Parking in neighborhoods draw fire

Southwestern College has several official parking lots on campus and a large ad hoc lot across the street in the middle of the College Estates neighborhood. Therein lies the rub. Hundreds of SWC students admit that they park in residential areas and walk to campus to save $20-$40 per semester for a parking permit. Homeowners have said they support the college, but are frustrated with speeding, parking violations, trash, congestion and in some cases mean and disrespectful students. Resolution seems to be far down the road. Pilar Anaya has lived on Gotham Street since 1993. An otherwise friendly, soft-spoken woman, she said she hates students parking in front of her house. “They’re annoying,” she said. “They block my driveway, they …

Financial Aid TV helps make applying easier

Patti Larkin is already in charge of financial aid, veterans services and evaluations. Now the busy administrator is also the producer of Financial Aid TV. A web-based program, Financial Aid TV was designed to provide a better understanding of the process through short, informative videos. Larkin said she hoped this new series of clips could prove to be useful and potentially cut back the time students spend waiting in line on campus. “We have really been looking at how to do this in the fastest, most efficient, student-centered way,” she said. “We don’t want people waiting. Students need to know what they need to know as quickly as possible because you guys have to make decisions quickly.” Larkin said she …

NO PRISON, NO DEMOTION — Arlie Ricasa and attorney Allen Bloom arrive for Ricasa's sentencing. He argued for leniency and said the college had "demoted" her. College officials deny Ricasa has been demoted.

Jaime Pronoble/Staff

Ricasa sentenced

Southwestern College EOPS Director Arlie Ricasa officially avoided a prison term this week when Judge Ana España sentenced her to 33 months of probation, a $4,589 fine and 80 hours of community service. Ricasa originally faced 33 criminal charges, including 16 felonies in the South Bay Corruption Case. Ricasa’s attorney, Allen Bloom, told the judge in open court that SWC Interim Vice President of Human Resources Lynn Solomita wrote a letter addressing the impact the case has had on Ricasa. …

STILL ON THE HOT SEAT —  Greg Sandoval still faces sentencing. Though prison is a possibility, a district attorney said he doubted Sandoval would be incarcerated.

Kristina Saunders/Staff

Sandoval pleads guilty

Greg Sandoval, former interim president of Southwestern College and a former Sweetwater Union High School District trustee, pleaded guilty to one felony count and one misdemeanor for his role in the South Bay Corruption Case. He was originally indicted on 34 counts, including perjury, filing false instrument, accepting bribes and wrongful influence by public official. Sandoval accepted gifts for dinners, sporting events tickets and hotel rooms, according to a thick San Diego County District Attorney affidavit. He appeared in court …

Transfers to UCSD down sharply

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla as “Prapeet” Khosla. The Sun editorial board apologizes for this error. … A vocal group of Southwestern College educators have said applications to UCSD should come with a disclaimer—local students need not apply. Fewer students from SWC and other community colleges in San Diego County were accepted by UCSD this year.  SWC acceptances are down by nearly half. This marks another year of a decade-long trend of fewer transfers. UCSD Chancellor Dr. Pradeep Khosla attended a town hall meeting with SWC administrators and faculty recently and offered no viable reason for the low numbers. When questioned about the declining number of students from SWC transferring to UCSD, Khosla

Self-evalution report is due next summer

It was only three years ago that a federal accreditation agency had its hands around the throat of Southwestern College, threatening to close it down. SWC received a stay of execution after a reformist board majority took control in 2010 and swept out the corrupt Raj K. Chopra administration. Today, like a hard-to-kill zombie, the accreditation agency is back. SWC Accreditation Oversight Committee Co-Chair Dr. Rebecca Wolniewicz said the college should be in good shape this time around. “It’s quality assurance,” she said. “It just says that the programs we offer here are valuable, worthwhile programs that have been approved by the federal government and our accreditors.” The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is looking at that …

GROUND TROOPS - Southwestern College ASO Senator Priscella Jimenez prepared her message.

Rick Flores/Staff

Students march for access

SACRAMENTO — “No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!” Voices of thousands of community college students thundered throughout the streets of Sacramento as they marched on the State Capitol to advocate for affordable higher education. Local Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez, Marty Block and Ben Hueso heard the message. Michael Greenberg, a student at Santa Monica Community College, said students should not be shut out of the college by the costs. “Access to education should be equal,” he said. “Education …

SWC Bachelor’s under study

It will likely be years before a four-year university comes to Chula Vista, but Bachelor’s degrees may be here by 2016. California Senator Marty Block, a former SDSU dean, authored Senate Bill 850 which enables about 50 state community college districts to create one Bachelor’s degree program apiece. SWC Trustees Tim Nader and Humberto Peraza both said the bill is a step in the right direction. “The absence of these degrees right now is forcing many of our students into very high-cost for-profit private education institutions,” said Nader. “Those institutions are not in the best interest of our students. I think we should be offering a more affordable alternative for our community.” Academic Senate President Randy Beach said he has …

SWC embarks on water conservation

Southern California’s rainy season is once again slipping away without much rain, the third year in a row the drought-striken Golden State has come up dry. And the worst may be yet to come. As reservoirs up and down the state dry out and crack like a broken windshield, Southwestern College is bracing for a desiccated 2014. John Brown, SWC Director of Facilities, said the college is working to use water more efficiently. New construction projects will include superior design and technology, he said, such as low-flow and automated fixtures. Existing buildings are in the process of replacing outdated plumbing devices with more efficient water-saving alternatives. Landscaping and grounds personnel have modified irrigation techniques to manage water and minimize waste, …