Thursday, May 31, 2012

Branch Campus Article: Pruning the Branches

Today's (May 31, 2012) daily update from Inside Higher Ed has a lead article on branch campuses. There are interesting points in the article, but there also is the suggestion that many universities are moving away from offering programs at branch campuses or are focusing their programs at the graduate level. There are a few comments after the article, including one from me. Note that the title of the article suggests "pruning," not necessarily cutting down the entire tree.

You can access the article at: You may have to copy and paste the address.

As indicated in my comment, my own impression is that many branch campuses are growing, and at least some presidents expect to see greater enrollment growth at branch campuses than at their main campuses. In my opinion, branches need to be aggressive about shifting toward hybrid delivery of their programs, and I believe it will be most sensible to form strong partnerships between branches and whatever unit at the institution develops and delivers fully online programs.

Some institutions may, indeed, find it wise to focus on graduate programs, whether online or at branches, and there certainly are ongoing discussions/arguments regarding which programs should be offered at branch campuses. However, I don't see the evidence that there is any broad move to cut back programs or close down campuses. Unfortunately, there is no data base to which we can turn to know for sure.

The article only refers to two institutions, both located in Boston. Both are fine schools, with successful online programs. One of them, Northeastern University, also is pursuing a relatively unusual strategy of developing new branch campuses in locations that are far from Boston. (A campus has opened in Charlotte, NC, and one has been announced for Seattle, WA.) The other institution, Boston University, has no such plans. Take a look at the Northeastern story, because it is both interesting and well-thought-out, in my opinion. (I've mentioned before that I do some work with Northeastern, so draw your own conclusions about their strategy.)

It appears to me that the "contraction" in the Boston area has had more to do with cutting back on what branch folks would call sites, not true campuses. That change might make sense, given online and hybrid options, but I still believe there is a place for a regional strategy that includes a physical presence, as well as increased reliance on technology.

Give the article a look, and see what you think.

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