Pruning The Branches

It seems like everybody’s doing branch campuses these days. New York University’s full-fledged campus in Abu Dhabi has been snagging headlines since 2007, as have Yale University’s effort to set up a liberal arts college in Singapore and Duke University’s planned campus in Kunshan, China.

With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that branch campuses have been around for decades, just a little closer to home. Universities have long been setting up satellite campuses in their backyards to better reach potential students in their traditional markets, particularly working adults who wanted to complete undergraduate degrees.

And while the high-profile international branches might be on the upswing, many higher education administrators say the old model is waning. As accreditors have enforced higher quality for branch campuses, technology has lowered barriers to delivering quality distance courses, and demand for convenient graduate programs has increased, the public and private, not-for-profit colleges and universities have begun closing bachelor’s degree programs at branch or satellite campuses.

Colleges and universities have instead begun focusing their efforts on delivering graduate programs, either by creating online programs or by setting up more comprehensive programs in attractive urban areas, sometimes in other states or regions, which can bring in more revenue and help grow national brands for recruiting undergraduates.

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