By Karen Augenstein, For The Miami Student

The year 2015 proved to be successful for Miami University’s regional campuses, as the school recently saw an influx in bachelor’s degrees obtained at regional campuses.

While regional campuses were traditionally known for being the first step in transitioning to main campus, the recent spike suggests that regional campuses are becoming more popular.

Brennan Burks, the director of public affairs for Miami’s regional campuses, said the number of bachelor’s degrees received from Miami University’s regional campuses has increased from 55 in 2008 to 319 in 2015 — a growth of 480 percent.

Burks said this is a result of the convenience and improving academic quality of the regionals.

“We have offered a number of new degrees that are attractive to students who want to remain in their communities, degrees that allow them to find jobs and don’t make them travel very far,” Burks said. “Many students at regional campuses are already working parents or working veterans. This allows them to advance their education without traveling very far or having to make special accommodations to get out to Oxford.”

Marianne Cotugno, the faculty director of the Middletown campus and an associate professor of English, has noticed the change in students’ degrees and campus choices over the years. When teaching a grant-writing class a few years ago, Cotugno noted that about half of her students were regional degree majors and the other half were seeking to relocate to the Oxford campus.

“Students in the latter group sometimes expressed trepidation about their ability to complete a degree in Oxford and explored transferring to another institution,” Cotugno said. With the number of degrees at regional campuses increasing, Cotugno sees more students in her classes who wish to complete their degrees at the regional campus.

Both Cotugno and Burks said the increase in degrees offered is most likely another contributing factor to the growing popularity of regional campuses, including an integrated studies major in 2008 and a health and information degree in 2010. In the fall of 2016, a graduate degree in criminal justice will be
available to students.

At the regional campuses, majors such as civic and regional development, commerce, forensic science and investigation, and applied communication are now available majors for regional students. Cotugno noted that when she started 10 years ago, there were only three bachelor’s degrees available.

For Hamilton student Aharon Brown, who takes classes on the Oxford campus as well, regional campuses provide convenience for people who live in those areas.

“Generally, the regional campuses are filled with a large number of people who have a life outside of school and can’t commit to school to the same degree like living on campus,” Brown said. “We work jobs or have families to provide for.”

Brown also noted the importance of regional campuses as the Oxford campus is somewhat isolated and difficult to commute to.

“An educated workforce is still heavily coveted to receive high-paying careers instead of simple low-wage manual labor jobs. It’s just the way things are set up. So, education is the only way to be competitive,” Brown said. “It’s easier to obtain, especially considering those who seek education at regionals may not have a lot of money to begin with at unskilled low-wage jobs, hence the need for school.”

For Elizabeth Winhover, an Oxford campus student and Ohio resident, the popularity of regional campuses will be a positive contribution for college students in Ohio.

“I think students are seeing the benefits of going to the regional campuses, which are known for having lower tuitions and, in some cases, closer to home,” Winhover said. “I think that regional campuses offering a wider range of degrees at a lower cost can only increase the number of students getting a college education.”

Due to the increase in majors, Burks said the online curriculum for the regional universities has expanded, but besides that, no huge changes have been implemented yet. However, with programs such as Ohio Means Jobs, a government-run program to help employ Ohio residents, it is clear Ohio is promoting the importance of a strong education and employment.

“I am happy to see us increasing the number of four-year degrees offered at the regional campuses,” Cotugno said. “I’m even happier to see more students in these degrees and increased completion rates. This means we are meeting the needs of our students and our region. It’s an exciting time for our university.”

For Burks, the influx in students obtaining their four-year bachelor’s degrees shows a positive future for regional campuses as a beneficial education program for Ohio students.

“My end-goal at Miami regionals is to offer degrees that work for the community,” Burks said. “We can continue to create and amend and perfect the degrees to help benefit the students and all the communities of Ohio.”