The University of California, Los Angeles purchased 35 acres of the former Marymount California University on Tuesday for $80 million, significantly expanding the colleges’ footprint into Rancho Palos Verde and becoming the largest land acquisition in school history.
Marymount California University (MCU), a private Catholic university that initially opened in 1968, closed last month due to declining enrollment and the COVID-19 pandemic significantly hurting the University. While plans had been made last year to merge with Florida-based university and focus more on an online-based structure, plans ultimately fell through, leaving the University to close for good. Students were subsequently offered enrollment in most CSU campuses, as well as UC Merced.
“This is an extremely sad day for Marymount and for the legacy and traditions lost, both for our campus community and the local Palos Verdes area we have called home for more than 50 years,” said then-MCU president Brian Marcotte in April. “This decision was not made lightly. But we felt the most compassionate thing to do was to give everyone time to make plans. Our focus now will be to help our students, faculty and staff.”
At the same time during the past several years, admissions at UCLA have been going up, with massive plans to expand student access by 2030 leading to a need for new satellite campuses outside of their large footprints in Westwood, Culver City, and Downtown LA. Goals of increasing admission to more undergraduates and graduates, eliminating gaps in underrepresented groups, and reaching a 90% or higher graduation rate also pushed UCLA officials to look for areas to expand.
On Tuesday, UCLA started their expansion by acquiring the former MCU campus. This includes the 24.5 acre main campus in Rancho Palos Verde, as well as a further 11 aces in nearby San Pedro for student residences. All together, the former MCU campus will lead to the instruction of at least 1,000 more students yearly and give some students an alternative to living in other parts of Los Angeles.
An $80 million acquisition
“As demand for our academic offerings continues to grow, this acquisition will allow us to expand student access in line with UC’s 2030 goals, strengthen our connections to the greater L.A. region, and deepen our institution’s research and public service impact,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a statement. “The new site site may host academic programs on the Peninsula as soon as next year.”
While there were other interested parties in the former MCU sites, UCLA was chosen by the landowners both due to former MCU officials wanting to continue the legacy of having the site be a University campus, as well as the land and building deeds specifically noting that they must be used for academic purposes until 2028, scaring off numerous land developers hoping for residential or commercial projects on the sites.
“We are certain UCLA will be an outstanding steward of the campus for the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro and the South Bay,” added Marcotte on Tuesday.
University experts told the Globe on Tuesday that the expansion plans to a widely different part of the LA area would, in the long term, be goo for both the University and the area.
“It was sad that MCU closed, but academic excellence will now continue there instead of the typical LA thing of replacing it with condos that no one can afford or shops that no one goes to,” explained Jerome Hanks, a New York-based college university financial advisor, to the Globe on Friday. “This was best case scenario for the former campus, and a lot of money and jobs, and more enrollment will occur as a result. Plus, this will help out the medical program and other fields that everyone agrees we need more of in this country right now.
“We’ve seen a lot of college campuses shut down and be sold off, depriving areas of colleges and a lot of young people spending a lot of money around town. This kind of bucks that trend. I’m sure MCU would have loved to find a way to keep going, but this way at least higher education continues there.”
Other possible expansion sites have not yet been announced by UCLA as of Tuesday.