With a full-time job selling airplane equipment and a busy family life, Maumee resident Robert Koehler probably couldn't find the time to drive some 50 miles to Heidelberg College in Tiffin to work on his master's degree in business administration.
But having Heidelberg's satellite campus in Maumee's Arrowhead Park cut Mr. Koehler's commute to just 6 miles, making his goal of obtaining an MBA more practical.
"I could drive down to class if I absolutely had to, but it would be very cumbersome," said Mr. Koehler. "This way, you technically don't have to go to Tiffin, short of graduation."
The private Heidelberg College isn't alone among four-year Ohio universities with satellite or branch campuses. Across the state, 23 such campuses serve approximately 42,000 students.
In northwest Ohio, fall 2004 enrollment at Bowling Green State University's Firelands College campus in Huron, Ohio, increased by 8.7 percent - tops among its peers - bringing its student population to nearly 2,000. As a result, Sunday classes are being considered at Firelands as a way of creating necessary classroom space, and another building project is being discussed.
"The growth has been a joy to see because I believe we are serving a population that in many cases we're not the college of last resort, we're the college of only resort," said James Smith, dean of BGSU Firelands.
Mr. Smith said some students use Firelands as a springboard to BGSU's main campus, while others complete their four-year degree work in Huron. Attending a branch campus is the only way many students can obtain a higher education, he said, largely because of the cost.
Students at BGSU's main campus in Bowling Green pay $8,072 per year, while full-time students at Firelands pay $3,960.
BGSU Firelands offers 14 two-year associate degrees, but also nine bachelor's degrees and even two master's degrees, setting itself apart from the two-year degrees that are found at community colleges.
At the Ohio State University branch in Lima, 10 bachelor's and three master's degrees are available.
Martin Kich, president of the Association of University Regional Campuses of Ohio, said he's noticed a shift among satellite campuses, both in the type of specialized programs they offer, the addition of four-year degrees, and even an increase of scholarship activity among professors.
Mr. Kich added, however, that the branch or satellite campuses must be smart about how they differentiate themselves.
"I just think it's a management issue because you obviously don't have the range of faculty at a regional campus as the main campuses," said Mr. Kich, a professor of English at Wright State University's Lake campus in Celina.
"You need to make sure you're being very selective in terms of the degree programs you're offering - and that there's a student need for them."
At the Heidelberg branch in Maumee, a master's degree in education was recently added, allowing students to take all their course work in Maumee. A market analysis indicated the degree could be a source of growth for the small school.
G. Michael Pratt, director of Heidelberg's Arrowhead Park campus and perhaps best known locally for his work as an archeologist establishing the actual site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, said the majority of the satellite campus' 167 students are working adults with families. The Maumee facility allows busy students to register, buy books, use computers, and take class all in one facility.
"Our forte is we're accelerated," Mr. Pratt said.
"We're designed specifically to deal with working adult students, both undergraduates and graduates."
Mr. Koehler, 38, said he tried attending classes elsewhere, but said he enjoys being in class with his peers - not young college students. He hopes to graduate in August, 2006.
"I want to move up in the world," he said. "My ultimate goal is to be self-sufficient, to own my own business, run it, or be a CEO of another company."
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Satellite campuses have emerged over the years as a way for universities to cater to both nontraditional students as well as those coming right out of high school. They often offer more convenient locations for rural areas, smaller class sizes, and are less expensive than their main branches.