Boston-Area Colleges Branch Out Across The Country

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Boston has always been a center for higher education, but now many of the area’s best-known names in education are creating satellite campuses around the country. By building a national network, universities say they can address educational needs that are not met in other parts of the country, and keep growing.

"Now Northeastern is going nationally and, as a matter of fact, globally,” said Northeastern President Joseph Aoun. (AP File)
"Northeastern is going nationally and, as a matter of fact, globally,” said Northeastern President Joseph Aoun. (AP File)

One of Emerson College’s most famous graduates, Henry Winkler, or The Fonz, led a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the school’s new campus in Los Angeles.

"Every one of your energies is helping to make the greatest small college in America even greater, even larger," Winkler told a crowd.

Emerson College says its new facility on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood will establish it as a bi-coastal institution. For years, Emerson has rented space in Burbank for its internship program, but President Lee Pelton says building a new satellite campus is an important step.

"The industries in Los Angeles, from marketing communications to film and television, are important to our students," Plenton said. "So it makes sense for us to have an on-site location that will provide them access to those industries."

Emerson LA will have residence halls, classrooms and administration offices, all in one building. Pelton sees it as a way to increase enrollment. Emerson will also offer graduate courses and professional certificates in television production, film writing and the business of makeup.

More colleges and universities are looking beyond the Bay State for growth, and not just by putting courses online. Northeastern University has launched an ambitious multi-city expansion of regional campuses to capture the graduate-level market.

"Traditionally, people thought about Northeastern as being in Boston and now Northeastern is going nationally and, as a matter of fact, globally," said Northeastern President and top brand manager Joseph Aoun.

Last fall, Northeastern opened its first satellite campus — a 14,000-square-foot facility in Charlotte, N.C. It offers graduate degrees in health informatics and other areas it has identified as filling business needs. The Northeastern brand is powerful, even in the Southeast, and Aoun says the physical presence of the university will also help it stay in touch with alumni and local businesses. Aoun says Northeastern will offer a hybrid approach of online and in-class instruction by Northeastern faculty flown from Boston.

"Our model is to provide students with a high-touch, high-quality educational model which means that the infrastructure has to be there, to serve them, to be present with them, and the interactivity has to be done online and on-site," Aoun said.


A Northeastern center in Seattle, set to open in the fall, will offer courses in computer science. The school is also considering campuses in Austin, Minneapolis and Silicon Valley. Aoun says universities in those cities have welcomed them because they are offering courses that aren't otherwise available.

It’s not new for public and private universities to have branch campuses, but they are typically within 50 miles of the main campus. Charles Bird, a consultant to colleges, says schools are realizing they need to tap into other markets for students.

"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 the number of college graduates for the jobs of the future," Bird said.

Aoun says to keep growing, universities need to move beyond their traditional offerings.

"We cannot restrict our model to the 18 to 22, which is the traditional undergraduate model, and the Ph.D. [and] research," Aoun said. "We have to look at educating also the professionals who are in the workplace."

Other schools with remote campuses include Lesley University, which has masters in education programs in 23 states. Babson College has a fast-track MBA program in San Francisco and is looking to expand to other states.

Education experts say universities will continue branching out across the country as along as demand stays strong.

This program aired on March 9, 2012.


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