Marymount California University in Los Angeles County wants to establish a campus in Visalia, according to local boosters and the university.
A traditional four-year college in Visalia has been a goal of local officials for 20 years.
Marymount California University — not to be confused with Loyola Marymount — is a Catholic college with campuses in Palos Verdes, San Pedro and Lake County.
It offers Associate degrees, Bachelor of Arts degrees in business, liberal arts, media studies and psychology, and advanced degrees.
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Last month, Marymount president Michael S. Brophy and a university board member met at the Visalia Holiday Inn with about 40 local leaders in government, education and the business community.
They said the university identified the San Joaquin Valley as ripe for a Catholic university.
Tulare County Superintendent of School Jim Vidak attended the meeting.
“I get the feeling that they’re serious,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of hurdles yet.”
Visalia emerged as a potential site when Marymount board member Bonifacio “Bonny” Garcia advised the university president to call his friend Robert Aguilar of Visalia, a now-retired Delano schools superintendent, for a read on the area.
Aguilar ultimately recommended Visalia and set up the local meeting.
Marymount is now seeking funding to conduct a six-month study of the Visalia educational market and could be in a position to make a decision in late 2015, said university spokeswoman Kelly Curtis Intagliata.
About $20,000 is needed for the study and Marymount has a researcher in mind, Aguilar said.
“We’re trying to get some local support,” he said.
Mike Fistolera, who attended the meeting, owns a two-story building east of the Tulare County courthouse and indicated he would rent it for $1 a year as a temporary site, Aguilar said.
It’s possible that a few classes could be taught next year, he said.
Other four-year colleges have programs in Visalia, most notably Fresno Pacific University, whose regional campus in west Visalia largely serves working adults taking evening classes to complete their college educations.
Fresno Pacific, which has a Brethren Mennonite heritage and many Catholic students, would view Marymount as a positive addition for higher education in the Valley, said Jon Endicott, director of enrollment.
“We would welcome another higher education institution,” he said.
There’s no “start to finish” residential four-year college between Fresno and Bakersfield.
Visalia Council Member Greg Collins, who attended the meeting, said the city owns undeveloped property in east downtown that is targeted for a civic center.
“Potentially, we could offer a site,” Collins said.
Aguilar said many people have told him they hope Marymount succeeds.
“It’s not going to be done tomorrow,” he said, “but it’s going in the right direction to make it happen.”