Colleges and universities branch out within the U.S.

Out-of-state campus additions offer branding, economic opportunity

Exotic branch campuses across the globe give American institutions an extra shine when recruiting students and establishing an internationally recognized brand. Now, several universities are finding similar success with satellites in other parts of the U.S.

For example: Drexel University, based in Philadelphia, operates a satellite in Sacramento, California; Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh runs a campus in Silicon Valley; and Benedictine University, a Massachusetts institution, has a campus in Mesa, Arizona.

Richer experiences

An institution’s out-of-state campus can expand its economic influence—and achieve greater national presence—by helping to train a distant region’s workforce, says Sean Gallagher, chief strategy officer of the Northeastern University’s Professional Advancement Network.

After analysis of several metro areas, the Boston-based university decided a campus in Seattle could help fill a viable need. The city’s mushrooming tech industry was hurting for qualified applicants in the computer science field.

To fill the gap, Northeastern’s Seattle satellite campus, which opened in 2013, offers the “ALIGN” program to students with a non-tech-related bachelor’s degree.

Upon completion of two semesters of accelerated courses, students are eligible to enroll in a computer science or bioinformatics graduate program. Half of those enrolled in the Seattle’s ALIGN program are females. The ALIGN program is also available on Northeastern’s main campus, and at another satellite in Silicon Valley.

The Seattle campus offers a diverse catalogue of other graduate degrees, including business, healthcare and civic engagement, as well.

Proximity to the industry and Manhattan’s fast-paced culture gives fashion school students at Kent State University’s NYC Studio a competitive edge that improves their job prospects, says J.R. Campbell, the school’s director.

Merchandising and design students experience the fashion world first-hand through internships. Students from other majors, such as journalism, can participate in similar programs at the New York satellite.

Both universities say academic offerings on their branch campuses mirror what is being taught at their flagships and online. However, each satellite integrates its location into the curriculum for an enhanced learning experience. For example, Kent State offers a luxury marketing course to NYC Studio students, who also benefit from instructors who work in the fashion industry.

Steps toward a new campus

Opening an out-of-state campus is similar to pursuing institutional accreditation in terms of providing quality assurance to a review panel, says Campbell.

Kent State submitted a proposal for the studio campus to the New York Board of Education. The concept also was analyzed by like-minded institutions in the state, including FIT and Parsons School of Design at The New School.

A team of staffers should be designated to handle the administrative process of a formal state Board of Education review, Gallagher says.

Ideally, this committee would include an attorney, a financial liaison and an academic administrator. Institutions should expect to present paperwork such as faculty resumes and syllabi; they should also expect to post a surety bond with the state (to set aside capital for refunds in the case of a branch closure).

Some states, such as North Carolina, include a site visit to the university’s main campus as part of the application process.

A finalized financial strategy is necessary as well. “It’s important to determine what funding exists from your institution and from donors for the project,” says Campbell. “The available amount should be in excess of initial cost projections.”

Any proposal should include thorough staff planning. Kent State’s studio classes are taught by part-time faculty while the flagship campus’ administrative services support the New York students.

Northeastern employs a more robust administrative staff at its satellites, each with its own dean, CEO, assistant dean and so-on. Satellite structure varies from university to university, and institutions can use this open template as a way to both hone and further their academic missions.

Right spot for the right campus

When gauging how a satellite campus will serve its broader institution (as well as its community), available facilities and educational opportunities for that state’s population should be examined, Gallagher. Northeastern chose its three American satellite locations by evaluating 100 cities and towns for the following:

  • Economic competitiveness; locales with a diversified economic base and job mix
  • A demonstrable, unmeet need for graduate-level education
  • An unsaturated market, where the college or university could create a standard of educational excellence
  • Interest from citizens and business leaders

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