A sign on Cabrillo College's Aptos campus
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Cabrillo College

Campus maps, highway signs, scoreboards: Why Cabrillo College’s renaming could cost up to $600,000

Final estimates are still in the works, but the cost of renaming Cabrillo College is likely to include big-ticket items such as changing 25 campus maps, updating highway signs, rebranding the school’s logo and repainting its athletic scoreboards. College president Matt Wetstein said the work will be paid for through fundraising and is likely to be spread out over several years.

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Cabrillo College is within months of having a new name, and with that comes the cost of updating campus signs, athletic uniforms, website logos and maps to reflect the school’s new moniker.

President Matt Wetstein said based on preliminary estimates, it could cost between $400,000 and $600,000 to change Cabrillo’s name. Wetstein emphasizes that no money from the college’s general fund will go toward changing the name; funding the name change will come from grants and donations only.

The work to change the name — and its associated expenses — is also likely to be spread out over several years, in part because the college has to wait to finalize the name change once it becomes official on Aug. 7, but also because it takes time to raise the money and to complete the work of updating and replacing the infrastructure.

“Changing the name on Aug. 7 doesn’t mean we have to change everything on Aug. 8,” Wetstein said. “This is a process over probably multiple years before the college is done with everything associated with the name change.”

Estimates of the costs to rename the college laid out in a fall 2022 report to the school’s governing board included big-ticket items, such as spending as much as $150,000 to change 25 campus maps and $144,000 to update landmark signs at both the Aptos campus and Watsonville Center — those large signs reading “Cabrillo College” in white cursive writing with a red background.

Cabrillo College's Aptos campus
(Thomas Sawano / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The report also estimated that it could cost up to $45,600 to replace signs on Highway 1 pointing to Cabrillo College, as much as $8,000 to rebrand the school’s logo and $5,000 to redesign and paint the school’s athletic scoreboard.

Among things the college will prioritize changing first is updating its website to ensure the community can find it easily online despite its new name. Cabrillo Marketing Director Kristin Fabos said it takes time to clear the former name from the internet and to ensure that when people search for the new name, the website will appear at the top of the search results.

Fabos said the college worked with local marketing agency Design by Cosmic to revamp its website between 2019 and 2020 through a grant from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. Cosmic helped move the website from a server-based system to a cloud-based, WordPress site and also updated the college’s logo.

Fabos said the college plans to use Cosmic again to apply the same lettering currently used for the existing Cabrillo College logo for the new name — keeping the colors and website the same.

In total, last fall’s report estimated the name change could cost between $388,000 and $468,000. However, Wetstein said those estimates were based on 2021 figures. Thanks to inflation, the top-end estimates for the work could actually end up being closer to $600,000.

But he added that some of the work could be delayed, incorporated into the cost of other work Cabrillo was planning to do unrelated to the name change, or even scrapped entirely. “It’s not as much as you think,” Wetstein said of the cost of changing the name. “We can wait and do a lot of this stuff in the normal course of business.”

He is also exploring ways the school can save money and do some of the work itself. “That’s why I’m a little hedgy on what the actual cost is going to be,” he said.


Costs estimates from March 2021 to change the name of Cabrillo College.
(Via Cabrillo College; sources: Cal Trans Contract Cost Database, other estimates by Matt Wetstein, March 2021)

A team of five or six people will be project managing these costs to make these kinds of final decisions. The team includes the college’s purchasing manager, Alex Strudley, marketing director Fabos, facilities director Jon Salisbury and planning and research dean Terrence Willett.

This team will study potentially doing some things in-house for cost-saving. One such project Wetstein is considering looking into is having replacements for the large Cabrillo College signs 3D-printed by students and faculty from the digital facilities lab. If done in-house, the college could drop a potential cost of about $132,000.

“For example, I’m thinking out loud — and I just floated this with our dean — what if we had the 3D Makerspace create new 3D signs for those marquees and have that as a project in the spring of [20]24 for them to create, install, paint and put up on the campus,” he said. “Then we’re not going to outside vendors.”

They would need to make sure that those signs would be weatherproof and last long-term, he added.

Another large cost the college could avoid, or at least delay, is replacing the 25 campus maps that read “Cabrillo College” at the top, which is estimated to cost as much as $5,000 per map. Rather than replacing each map, Wetstein said the college could look into placing a logo with the new name over the portion of the map that now reads “Cabrillo College.”

Some name-change costs are expected to be lower than estimated, such as replacing two Caltrans signs along Highway 1. Wetstein said his initial estimates were for the cost of replacing four signs for about $40,000. But, he said, there are only two signs that need to be replaced, which should lower the cost estimates.

Wetstein says the amount the school will have to pay Caltrans won’t be finalized until the college approves the new name and staff submits the name change to the state agency. He imagines the highway signs wouldn’t be changed until July 2024.

The football field at Cabrillo College
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Then there are the expenses that can likely be incorporated into the school’s regular budget, such as replacing old athletic uniforms and redoing the basketball court — updates that are already done every several years or so. Wetstein said the school will take on that work but it won’t do it just because it has a new name.

“We’re just going to play with Cabrillo on our shirts until we make that changeout, and that may feel uncomfortable to some people but I want to honor the argument that we’re not going to spend any additional public money doing this kind of work,” he said.

Wetstein reiterated that because the college won’t be spending any general funds, the changes will happen only when the school has the funding.

“We have a way to go before we reach our target,” he said.

Private donations have been trickling in, he said. He wouldn’t provide a figure, but said he plans to give an update on private donations to the college’s governing board Monday.

Wetstein said the college is in the middle of the grant application process with one organization — which he wouldn’t name because it’s not finalized — for up to $200,000. He said he hopes the school can use that money to appeal to the community to donate a matching amount. Then, Wetstein hopes, the college can apply for grants from other organizations to fund the remainder of the money needed to complete the name change. The college has a list of about 10 charitable organizations it plans to apply to for such grants, he said.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be successful or not and it will drive how fast and how long this process will take,” he said. “If we get money easily from funders, great. If we don’t, I will say to the board, and I’ll say to the public, we’re not going to do this using general fund dollars. So you all are going to have to wait. That’s the dilemma I’m in. Sometimes uncomfortable. There it is.”