Campus idea not unique, some say

EdCampus, slated to open in 2010, is similar to other postsecondary options in the state.

Plans for EdCampus, a higher education campus in Chaska in 2010, sparked buzz about its concept – one site with classrooms leased to interested colleges from around the world.

But with the increasingly popular concept of operating satellite classrooms in off-campus locations, some say the model isn’t all that unique.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, which has been approached by the group backing EdCampus, has 53 in-state campuses but also provides instruction in several high schools and community centers around the state, said spokeswoman Linda Kohl.

Tim Engen, president of Twin Cities-based Metropolitan Lifelong Learning Center, the group behind EdCampus, said roughly 70 to 80 postsecondary education institutions have more than 20 satellite operations.

Those numbers are on the rise as institutions expand their reaches to other states, using convenience to appeal to students, he said.

“It’s that kind of migration of institutions into the Twin Cities that helps pave the way for the facility that we’re proposing,” Engen said.

Around 50 percent of all postsecondary education in Minnesota occurs in the metropolitan area, according to Metropolitan Lifelong Learning Center.

But don’t count the University in the number of schools offering off-campus classes.

Except for the Rochester campus temporarily renting space in a downtown mall as the campus develops, the University doesn’t rent off-site classroom space, spokesman Dan Wolter said.

“The University has more than 25 million square feet of assignable space in our system,” he said in an e-mail to the Daily. “That is sufficient for our needs.”

Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll said the town had been looking at incorporating higher education when it was approached with the EdCampus. The concept wasn’t what he’d originally expected, he said.

“I was thinking about a university extension or something,” he said, like a nursing or teaching college, or “something more traditional.”

Van Eyll said after hearing more about EdCampus plans, he was convinced of its potential. Partnering local businesses with the campus will also be good for the area, he said.

“We were going for the traditional,” Van Eyll said, adding he doesn’t think the school will be in competition with other area schools.

“Right now, I don’t see any real super advantages, other than this one is going to be unique and highly technical,” he said.

University sophomore Sara Talbot said schools reaching out to off-campus sites could be helpful to people with travel restrictions, such as families or limited funds.

She said she hadn’t heard of EdCampus, but increasing education availability is positive, she said.

However, Talbot said, one potential downside for a participating school would be the loss of its unique identity or brand image.

As for the University’s future? You won’t be seeing satellite University classes offered in Wisconsin or Iowa anytime soon. Wolter said the school hasn’t considered expanding its services to other states.

“Our first priority is to the people and quality of life in Minnesota,” he said.