We recently published a story, by Kevin Fitzgerald, explaining why the Coachella Valley will not be getting a full four-year university anytime soon.
This is not a surprise. But it is disappointment.
As we celebrate our 10th anniversary year here at the Independent, I’ve been reflecting back on what it was like when we started up in 2013. To say we faced challenges would be an understatement; however, I anticipated most of those challenges.
The one massive challenge I didn’t fully anticipate was the extreme difficulty we’d face in finding good, experienced, eager freelancers. Before coming to the Coachella Valley, I worked for newspapers in Reno, Las Vegas and Tucson. In each of those places, it was relatively easy to find capable writers, photographers and designers. In each of those places, I also managed (or helped manage) robust internship programs.
Then I came here.
While I was able to eventually assemble a solid group of freelancers, it took far longer and was much more difficult than I expected. As for developing an internship program, after trying for at least two years to make headway, I finally gave up. Even now, I have a possible grant for a paid intern, and I can’t find any solid candidates for the position. (Know of someone? Drop me a line!)
What’s different about the Coachella Valley compared to my previous locations? Reno, Las Vegas and Tucson are all, to varying degrees, college towns. The Coachella Valley is not; as great as the College of the Desert is in some respects, it’s still a community college, not a four-year-degree institution.
Universities add so much to a community. They bring in talented and smart experts, who then pass their expertise along to their students. The result is the development of a “creative class” of individuals—artists, writers, musicians and the like—as well as entrepreneurs, all of whom help the community become a better place to live.
This is not to say the Coachella Valley doesn’t have talented artists, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs—of course we do—but we don’t have as many of them as we would if California State University, Palm Desert, were a real thing.
As Kevin explains in his story, any hopes we had of getting a four-year university in the foreseeable future have been dashed by the pandemic and the current state budget deficit. But there is hope: A recent state study indicated that of all the possible locations for a new CSU campus, Palm Desert is, in many ways, the spot with the most potential.
I really hope that CSU-Palm Desert becomes a reality in the not-too-distant future. It would truly be a positive game-changer for the entire Coachella Valley.
Note: This is a slightly edited version of the editor’s note that appeared in the May 2023 print edition. Another version of this column was originally published online in the April 20 Indy Digest.