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Laguna campus closing, but UC Extension plans to continue offering S.F. classes

– UC Berkeley Extension is moving forward with plans to close its Laguna Street campus in San Francisco but anticipates that popular classes will continue to be offered in that city.

Campus officials recently announced that financial constraints were forcing the closure of the Laguna campus following the fall 2003 semester.

However, every effort is underway to ensure that high-demand courses will be offered at another San Francisco facility either owned or leased by UC Extension, said James Sherwood, dean of UC Berkeley Extension.

"We are committed to offering and preserving UC Extension programs in San Francisco,'" said Sherwood. "We are asking students, staff and instructors to be patient. The majority of the programming will remain."

Officials do not yet know which of the 717 current programs will be preserved. Within the next two months, Sherwood expects to closely analyze the program offerings with an eye toward preserving the high-enrollment, income-generating programs.

Once officials have identified the programs that will remain, they will determine how many of the approximately 30 permanent staff positions at the Laguna campus will be preserved, though moved to locations elsewhere in San Francisco, according to William Webster, vice provost for academic planning & facilities.

"We are trying very hard to preserve as many jobs as we can but the fact is that with shrinking enrollment we may have to make some adjustments," said Webster.

UC Berkeley Extension is the self-supporting continuing education branch of UC Berkeley. As such, it must generate its own funds to run its operation. Roughly 90 percent of its income is generated from student enrollment fees. And in recent years the dot.com bust and other factors have depressed enrollment - and thus revenue - significantly.

For example, during the fall 2001-2001 school year UC Extension generated roughly $48 million. For the 2002-2003 school year income dropped to $35 million.

Forced to find ways to adjust for this precipitous drop and the ongoing maintenance cost of the aging complex of buildings on the Laguna campus, officials chose to close the Laguna campus. The Laguna campus was developed in the 1920s as property for San Francisco State and was purchased by UC Berkeley Extension in 1958. It is in need of many millions of dollars of repair to meet current codes for seismic safety and access for the disabled, Sherwood said.

Campus officials have not decided what they will do with the building once academic programming ends there Dec. 31. Options include selling or leasing it.

UC Berkeley officials informed Extension of the Laguna Street closure on July 23. The following day Sherwood sent out email to quickly alert the Laguna staff. The Extension program dean said he plans to schedule regular question-and-answer sessions with the Laguna campus staff to keep them informed about the process. In addition, emails, letters, and postings on the UC Extension Web site will be available to keep students, staff, and instructors up-to-date.