A proposal by 9th District Councilmember Rex Richardson to explore the feasibility of establishing a higher education center in North Long Beach was unanimously passed by the city council on November 13.

Richardson requested the city manager to work with Long Beach City College (LBCC), the Long Beach Economic Development Department, Pacific Gateway and Long Beach higher education experts on the study.

There could be opportunities to partner with more agencies, such as California State University, Dominguez Hills, according to Richardson. Representatives from the university reached out after news of the proposal, he noted.

Richardson, who represents much of North Long Beach, told the Business Journal he made the proposal to improve higher education accessibility for area residents, who often do not have as convenient transportation access as those living closer to the campus. “That might contribute to the reasons why graduates out of Jordan High School [in North Long Beach] who matriculate to community college are selecting Compton College first, Cerritos College second and Long Beach City College third,” Richardson said.

The conversation about creating a higher education presence in North Long Beach began five years ago with Eloy Ortiz Oakley, former superintendent-president of LBCC District and current chancellor of California Community Colleges, according to Richardson.

Last year, Long Beach City College issued a study that found the 90805 zip code in North Long Beach is where the institution has the biggest opportunity for growth. Richardson pointed out that the area has one of the largest subset of people under 30 years old.

Enrollment rates at LBCC have been declining recently, and increasing enrollment with an expansion could provide a solution for the college’s financial challenges, according to Richardson.

“This is a moment where the city college’s strategies could align with the city strategies to help both the city college become more fiscally sound and help the city achieve its economic development goals,” Richardson said.

Richardson’s proposal also stressed the benefits of bringing a community college to the area. Community colleges are a more accessible means to higher education because they are affordable and serve as primary institutions for workforce development, he explained.

Richardson anticipates that both LBCC and the city can form a task force to evaluate short- and long-term educational opportunities for North Long Beach.

“It has really been a community that has been clamoring for education,” Uduak-Joe Ntuk, LBCC District Trustee for Area 1, said at a November 13 board of trustees meeting. LBCC Vice President of Business Services Marlene Dunn made a presentation on the potential for a satellite campus expansion, which coincided with the feasibility study proposed by Richardson.

Although Ntuk thinks LBCC should be looking to service other parts of the city as well, such as the Westside, he stressed that the community in North Long Beach “has long had a sense of being left behind.” He also noted that it takes a two-hour bus ride round trip to LBCC from North Long Beach.

Ntuk also referred to what the community in North Long Beach calls the “Uptown Renaissance,” referring to the amount of recent improvements to the community, such as the opening of the Michelle Obama Public Library and the new community center at Houghton Park.

“North Long Beach is growing, it’s thriving and it’s time for higher education to play a role in the renaissance that’s taking place,” Richardson said.