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BC announces $14 million will fund new 2-story Learning Resource Center in Delano

If it weren't for Bakersfield College's Delano campus, Joanna Aguirre isn't sure whether she would be on track to transfer or her cousin would be able to juggle caring for younger siblings with class.

"It would probably have made us think, 'College isn't for me,'" she said.

Thanks to BC's Rural Initiatives program, college has come to students like Aguirre and her cousin, the daughters of farmworkers, instead of expecting them to make the 70-mile round-trip journey to BC's Bakersfield campus. 

In its most recent budget, the state allocated $14.41 million to fund BC's rural expansion in Delano. On Tuesday, BC officials and Assemblyman Rudy Salas D-Bakersfield shared more details about how that money will help to build a new Learning Resource Center in Delano. 

The new Learning Resource Center is designed to be a two-story, 40,000-square-foot multipurpose center. It will reside on a grassy spot on the campus, which sits adjacent to Robert F. Kennedy High School. 

The building is scheduled to break ground in February and be finished in fall 2023, according to Jamie Miller, director of architecture with Klassen Corp.

"Students who are graduating June of 2023: the campus is waiting for you," said Kern Community College District Chancellor Sonya Christian.

The Delano Campus has the highest number of students enrolled in college, second only to Bakersfield. Christian said the growth potential of the campus is immense, and the effects of education will help the area surrounding Delano.

"BC is the community's college," Christian said. "We take our education into the community."

The new building will house a little bit of everything. It will have administrative offices such as admissions and records, financial aid and counseling. There will be a tutoring and writing center. It will also house a student library.

There will also be laboratory space for chemistry and biology classes. There will be more lecture spaces and many more classrooms, including high-flex classrooms, which allow students to tune into a session remotely. These classrooms will allow students the flexibility to take classes remotely and possibly even expand the capacity of a class.

Christian said that Salas' office has worked at the state level to allocate funding over the last few years. There has been Measure J funding ready to go to build a new center in Delano. But this $14 million represents about half the cost of the project, which pushed the project toward becoming a reality, Christian said.

Salas said he fights for funding like this because he knows these opportunities will be "life-changing" for students like Aguirre and their communities. It changes the trajectory not just of their lives, but those of their families and friends and future generations, he said.

That's exactly what Aguirre's parents hoped for. 

"My parents didn't get a good education," she said. "It's something they all wanted for us."

She said she's happy not just for herself, but others in her community who will be able to take advantage of the expanded campus in the future.

A larger footprint on campus with more classroom space will mean more curriculum offerings.

Christian said that when the center opens, she expects students will take more courses in health care and health sciences. BC is looking to double its registered nursing program, expand its radiologic technology program and teach ultrasound sonography.

Energy-related curriculum, which includes clean energy, carbon management and water management, is receiving significant investments from both state and federal sources, Christian said. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering signing AB 927, which would extend and expand a statewide pilot program that has enabled community colleges to offer full baccalaureate degrees. Through this program, BC has offered a baccalaureate degree in industrial automation.

"The minute that bill is signed, Bakersfield College is ready to bring our baccalaureate programs to our rural communities," Christian said. "This building will be instrumental to that expansion."