Friday, March 1, 2013

If You Teach It, They Will Learn

By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate. 

My hometown has been in the news lately because of a battle between Jackson State University and the mayor of Madison, MS, who does not want Jackson State to open its newly announced satellite campus due to fears that it will compete with an already established Tulane satellite campus. This week, the state College Board decided that Jackson State could in fact open its doors in the suburban city. 

This reluctance to welcome new higher educational opportunities was surprising to me since there are communities across the country that have opened their arms to multiple colleges—from their state and even from out of state—to help them increase access to educational attainment. So, I took to the net to research a few examples: 

Gwinnett County, GA: In 1997, the Gwinnett University Center was established as a cluster of satellite locations for various colleges including the University of Georgia, Georgia Perimeter College, Southern Polytechnic State University, and the Medical College of Georgia to meet the county’s need for higher education access. Enrollment growth at the Center and population growth in the County eventually led to the state legislature transforming the University Center into Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) in 2005. As a college within the state university system, GGC has grown from a little more than 100 students five years ago to over 9,000 now. 

Peoria and Mesa, AZ: To reach a goal of enhancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and to attract more diversified jobs in high technology fields, this Phoenix suburb is working with three universities (Trine University, Huntington University, and the College of St. Scholastica) to open satellite campuses. Mesa, AZ is another suburb with a similar economic development effort: they have negotiated with five liberal arts universities (Benedictine, Albright, Wilkes, Upper Iowa, and Westminster) to set up satellite campuses. 

South Boston, VA: The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) aims to advance Southern Virginia economically, culturally, and socially, by providing its citizens affordable and accessible educational opportunities through partnerships and regional cooperation. To achieve this mission, the SVHEC offers access to more than 70 degree completion programs, from the associate to Ph.D level, from nine college and university partners: Danville Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, Central Virginia Community College, Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (degrees are from one of five Virginia universities), Longwood University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Old Dominion University, Mary Baldwin College, Averett University, and Virginia Tech, in addition to two coalition partnerships. Between 75 and 100 non-credit courses are offered primarily through target programs to special populations, including children, older adults, and English As Second Language (ESL) Students. Signature programs include the Center of Nursing Excellence, Business of Art and Design, R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Efficiency, and the Innovation Center. 

Since 1986, the program has grown exponentially and now serves over 6,000 students annually. To accommodate this growth, the community raised $3.6 million through a bond referendum and private gifts to purchase and renovate a tobacco warehouse located in the heart of downtown South Boston. An additional $5 million was received through grant awards from local corporate and non-profit partners. 

Everett, WA: The University Center of North Puget Sound is a collaboration between eight universities (Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Hope International University, Saint Martin’s University, The Evergreen State College, University of Washington-Bothell, Washington State University, and Western Washington University) that stemmed from 1997 state legislation to create flexible and innovative higher education options for the tri-county area. The Center provides undergraduate and graduate degrees for residents of North Snohomish, Island, and Skagit counties and offers both online and in-class courses. 

Lake County, IL: The University Center of Lake County is a partnership of 20 Illinois public and private colleges and universities and offers over 100 bachelor’s and advanced degree programs. With nearly 1,500 students, the Center has two campuses and offers online instruction and student services. Most of the Center’s funding is from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. 

Providing increased learning opportunities for today’s current and future workforce is a good thing. In a state where fewer than 20 percent of adults have a college degree, a project that gives residents more options for higher education training is surely an economic development asset.