Thursday, March 23, 2017

Joel Anderson: From Grossmont College to the California Senate

State Sen. Joel Anderson
State Senator Joel Anderson has come a long way since the days when he was a student at Grossmont College, living out of his car to save money so he could continue his schooling.

“Grossmont was a great value,” said Anderson, who received an associate degree from the college in 1983. “I got a tremendous education and the price was right.”

Anderson said he decided to go to Grossmont College because he was supporting himself and couldn’t afford to attend a four-year university. At the time, California community colleges cost just $22 a credit unit. (They’re still a bargain at $46 a credit unit.)

He said the factory where he worked laid him off when they planned to move to Washington state. To save money, Anderson lived out of his car for about six months. “There are worse places than sleeping on the beach,” he said.

A college friend, Barry Jantz, offered to let Anderson stay at his La Mesa apartment and the two became roommates. Anderson has remained lifelong friends with Jantz, a former La Mesa councilman who is CEO of the Grossmont Healthcare District.

“Life was good,” Anderson said. “I was young, foolish and without a future.”

Anderson was rehired at his job when the factory’s move was delayed, and he worked 48 hours a week while attending Grossmont College. It took him four years to earn enough credits to graduate, but Anderson said the experience made him value his education even more.

“Because I paid my way, I understood the importance of strong instructors who would provide an education that translated into an income and would provide for my future,” he said.

When he transferred to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Anderson was pleased that all of his course credits from Grossmont College carried over. He even tested out of a required statistics class at Cal Poly because he had already learned the material in his Grossmont College class.

Anderson’s first elected position was in November 2002, when he won election to the Padre Dam Municipal Water District board. After four years on the water board, Anderson was elected to the California Assembly, where he served two two-year terms. He was elected a state senator in 2010, winning a second four-year term in 2014.

As a state senator, Anderson has shown his support for community colleges by co-sponsoring a 2014 bill that provides for a pilot program allowing 15 California community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in workforce programs. Anderson is also co-sponsoring a follow-up bill now before the state Legislature that will extend the program to allow 30 colleges to offer degrees, and end a sunset provision in the first bill that is now scheduled for 2023.

Anderson said he’s glad the legislation can help other students seeking a degree, just as he did when he was at Grossmont College.

“I have nothing but respect for the quality of education I received at Grossmont College,” Anderson said.