Private Colleges Branch Out To Other States

fromWBUR

Public universities have been creating branch campuses for years — typically within 50 miles of the main campus. Private schools are building satellite campuses too, but in states far from home. It's a chance to expand their brand, bring new opportunities to students and grab a share of the lucrative market for graduate education.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

American universities, like American companies, have been looking to expand into new markets. They open campuses overseas. And now many private colleges are looking for growth back home, building satellite campuses around the United States. Now, any given public college may spread campuses across a state, but private institutions reach across state lines. Here's Monica Brady-Myerov from member station WBUR.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HENRY WINKLER: So on behalf of Emerson College I would like to thank everybody that is inside this tent. And everybody...

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV, BYLINE: One of the school's most famous graduates, The Fonz, Henry Winkler, led a groundbreaking ceremony for Emerson's new campus in Los Angeles recently.

WINKLER: Every one of your energies is helping to make the greatest small college in America even greater, even larger.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BRADY-MYEROV: Emerson, a liberal arts school focused on communications, has been in Boston since 1880 and has rented space in L.A. for its internship program. President Lee Pelton says building a new $110 million satellite campus will give students more access to Los Angeles industries such as marketing, film and TV.

LEE PELTON: What we are doing here is stretching the classroom from one coast to the other. In the same way that technology has obliterated time and space, we're doing that with our new campus in Los Angeles.

BRADY-MYEROV: Emerson, L.A. will have residence halls, classrooms and administration in one building, and will try to recreate the Boston student life experience. The new campus will allow the school to increase undergraduate enrollment by 100 students and offer graduate courses and professional certificates.

PELTON: The growth is not the main driver. The main driver here is deepening our brand and extending our brand all across the nation.

BRADY-MYEROV: More colleges and universities are looking beyond their state boundaries for growth, and not just by putting courses online. In contrast to Emerson, Northeastern University is only going after the graduate market by launching a multi-city expansion of regional campuses. Last fall, Northeastern opened its first satellite campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. It's offering graduate degrees in health informatics and other areas it's identified as filling local business needs.

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun.

JOSEPH AOUN: We cannot restrict our model to the 18 to 22, which is the traditional undergraduate model and the Ph.D./research. We have to look at educating also the professionals who are in the workplace.

BRADY-MYEROV: The school has a hybrid approach of online and in-class instruction by Northeastern faculty flown from Boston. But the school will not offer the same infrastructure as the Boston campus. Northeastern also plans to open satellite campuses in Seattle, Austin and Minneapolis.

But universities that have already tried branching out say it's not as easy as it sounds. Frank Linnehan, vice dean of the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University, says when they opened a graduate center in Sacramento in 2009, they made a mistake by calling it a campus.

FRANK LINNEHAN: That conjures up a vision of a full library, athletic facilities, study groups.

BRADY-MYEROV: Drexel's graduate center doesn't have those things, to the disappointment of some students. Drexel also scaled back plans to expand the Sacramento campus when the economy declined. And Linnehan says the school confronted other problems.

LINNEHAN: How do you establish a brand? How do you make the economics work? And what is the purpose of being there?

BRADY-MYEROV: Despite these challenges, college consultant Charles Bird believes more schools will build branches out of state from their main campuses because they need to reach more students - especially adult learners.

DR. CHARLES BIRD: I think higher education has become increasingly competitive. And, of course, in almost every state, the political leadership is talking about wanting to see an increase in number of college graduates for jobs of the future.

BRADY-MYEROV: Bird says he even expects to see college enrollment grow in the branch campuses more than at the traditional ones.

For NPR News I'm Monica Brady-Myerov in Boston.

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