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New campus brings 'more opportunity' to Rockford

Wednesday, March 17, 2010  
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By Cathy Bayer
RRSTAR.COM
Posted Mar 17, 2010 @ 07:31 PM
Last update Mar 18, 2010 @ 12:55 AM


ROCKFORD — Benedictine University will be ready to accept students as soon as April 1 at its satellite campus, which opened downtown last week.


The Benedictine University Rockford Learning Center, is on the third floor of Rockford Housing Authority main office, 223 Winnebago St.


Benedictine serves more than 8,000 students at its main campus in Lisle and through its satellite facilities in Bellwood, Naperville, Peoria, Springfield and now Rockford.


"We’re so excited to bring something to the community,” said Michelle Koppitz, contract director for the adult accelerated learning team programs. "We want to make a commitment to Rockford.”


For now, the Rockford site includes one classroom, but may grow to two classrooms if needed. It’ll start as a three-person office with two enrollment counselors and one person working the business angle of the campus, Koppitz said.


The college has already enrolled more than 20 students in the Rockford area for its field-based education master’s degree in reading and literacy.


Those students — some teachers from Belvidere, Rockford, Kane County and Elgin, Koppitz said — meet one night a week at Elgin Community College, and the rest of the coursework is completed online.


For education courses, Benedictine typically partners with local school districts and holds classes on their campuses because the location is more convenient for teachers enrolled in Benedictine, Koppitz said. The students were willing to be flexible until the site was finalized, she said.


Benedictine officials are still in talks with local school districts to see what their needs are, she said.


"It’s too soon to say we’ve formed a partnership,” she said.


Benedictine also offers a 15-month education master’s degree in leadership and administration, plus a nine-month English as a second language endorsement.


In May, Benedictine plans to offer an associate degree in business administration, a bachelor’s in management and a master’s in business administration. The college needs 14 students to enroll before it can move forward. Courses can be offered at the Rockford site as soon as that core group of 14 enrolls.


Course enrollment begins April 1, and college officials are planning an open house for the new site in early April.


"We’re thrilled to bring adult accelerated programs to the Rockford community and hopefully be part of a positive change there,” Koppitz said.


Rockford is already home to several satellite campuses, such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Judson University, Rasmussen College and Upper Iowa University.


"It just means there’s more opportunity for people to be successful in earning their degree,” Koppitz said. "We hope we meet the needs of a lot of people in Rockford.”


The more satellite campuses, the more options students have when considering the best way for them to earn a higher degree, said Rena Cotsones, assistant vice president for regional engagement at Northern Illinois University in Rockford.


"The higher education landscape is certainly changing,” she said. "We’re focused on what we offer as the region’s four-year public institution.”


Rockford residents have dozens of institutions to choose from, whether they’re brick and mortar, a satellite campus or online provider, said Robert Head, president of Rockford College.


Adding another brick and mortar campus won’t make a big difference to the Higher Education Alliance for the Rock River Region, Head said, because they each fill different needs. Rockford College, Rock Valley College, Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois College of Medicine are all HEARRR members.


Satellite campuses are niche players that come to serve a specific population or offer courses in a specific subject area, Head said.


"There are plenty of students here for all of us,” he said.


Staff writer Cathy Bayer can be reached at cbayer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1395.


This story appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/news/yourtown/x99755693/New-campus-brings-more-opportunity-to-Rockford on March 17, 2010.


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