High school district to review costs of College Fair

As the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) begins planning for next year’s College Fair Night, it will look at ways to scale back and reduce where possible due to concerns about the cost of hosting the event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

At the May 11 SDUHSD board meeting, board member Mo Muir balked at the cost of $12,959 to provide catering services at the April 24 event. Paired with the facilities rental at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the College Night cost about $25,000, expended from the general fund and the Torrey Pines High School Foundation.

SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill admitted that he has “sticker shock” as well in seeing the cost of the food services, which they were invoiced for after the event. The fairgrounds requires that the renters use their catering services.

“If we didn’t have to use their catering services, we would not have,” Dill said.

SDUHSD Board President Amy Herman said informal planning meetings have already begun for next year’s event and they intend to discuss the cost and how it is handled next year.

Muir wondered if they could possibly host the event at one of the school sites, to save money on facilities rental. Isaac Gelman, the student board representative from Torrey Pines, envisioned how the event could move back to Torrey Pines and take advantage of not only the school courtyard but the spacious new learning commons.

As Herman explained, the college fair started at Torrey Pines but outgrew the site. Since moving to the Fairgrounds it has grown and grown every year — this year’s sixth annual event had 200 colleges represented and 40 colleges were on the wait list.

Colleges are not charged to attend but board member John Salazar said maybe they should be.

“If we’re having a close to $9 million deficit in this district, we should look at every opportunity to save money or make money,” Salazar said. “These colleges charge outrageous amounts to our students and I think we should return the favor to them.”

Dill said the goal is to bring as many colleges as possible to the event for students. Dill said if they begin to charge schools, there might be colleges that students wouldn’t be able to see.

Salazar said in the day of internet, he is not even sure hosting a college night is necessary.

“I’ve been to many of them. It’s a lot of just glad-handing and them selling themselves,” Salazar said.

Board members, student representatives and staff shared their opinions about how the college night is beneficial.

SDUHSD Associate Superintendent Mark Miller said the event gives the district’s lower socioeconomic students an opportunity they might not have had otherwise, to talk to a school representative face to face. Muir also said that it’s beneficial for students to learn about financial aid and how much money is out there for them to take advantage of.

“I’ve been approached by many parents who brought their kids, their kids saw schools and were interested in schools that they never ever thought they would look at,” SDUHSD Vice President Joyce Dalessandro said. “I’ve been thanked so many times for providing this service to our students as well as the county because seeing an array of colleges…is an amazing opportunity for kids to really hear about all kinds of schools.”

Mikenzie Bub, the student board representative from Sunset High School, said she went two years ago not even close to graduation, and it was helpful to see just how many options are available, from big to smaller schools.

“For me, I wanted to look at like 30 schools but that’s really expensive so it’s definitely a step-up from a virtual tour where you can go talk to an actual representative, to give you information that you can’t find on the website,” said Emma Schroeder, the student board representative from Canyon Crest Academy.

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