What do the Middletown and Hamilton campuses look like? What kinds of courses are taught there? Have you ever met a Middletown or Hamilton student? I have been a student at Miami Oxford for all of one semester, so you may assign appropriate weight to my comments, but I would assume 90 percent of Oxford students have never even seen the Middletown or Hamilton campuses, let alone met a student or taken a class at either of these campuses.

Over the last several months, we have witnessed debate regarding the future of Miami’s regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown. The facts of this debate are simple on the surface. These campuses cause brand confusion with Oxford, the joint issuance of degrees causes administrative problems, and unfortunately, most Oxford students just don’t understand why the regional campuses exist. Recently, in an exhibition of pathetic imagination and muddled institutional goals, our university administrators decided the Oxford campus should be effectively separated from the regional campuses.

Miami professors talk about increasing accessibility to education, we host speeches about wealth inequality and we have sent students to study in Luxembourg. Yet we fail to capitalize on the incredible opportunity sitting right under our noses. We could be building an exemplary system of accessible educational institutions fully integrated with the incredible resources of Miami-Oxford. Instead, our university is determined to erect more roadblocks to accessible education. Where are the opportunities for individuals who didn’t go to private school, didn’t attend SAT prep courses and whose parents don’t pay tribute to their alma mater? In two small cities in southwest Ohio, individuals from any background and of any age can get educated and obtain a degree from a nationally recognized institution.

Miami University spends $25,253.39 annually on each undergraduate student at the Oxford campus. In Middletown and Hamilton, the university spends $8,665.03. Last year, only the Middletown campus required financial assistance from the universities central endowment in the amount of $2,409,031. Hamilton produced positive cash flow contributing $4,200,651 to the universities endowment. Despite claims to the contrary, the regional campuses are actually a cash positive enterprise. Even if the regionals were fundamentally cash negative, creating additional separation between the campuses cannot possibly be a financially beneficial endeavor. Separating certain academic systems will inevitably create the need for new administrative positions and systems at the regional campuses. Further institutional separation at the budgetary level could lead to separate procurement practices, resulting in the regional campuses losing existing economies of scale.

Every time I drive down Trenton-Oxford Road, I see a small banner that reads: “Miami: Ohio’s public ivy.” Does this mean Miami wants to be like Harvard or Dartmouth? Interestingly, Harvard is embracing the concept of brand accessibility. Through the newly revived Harvard Extension School, a diverse set of individuals can attend online classes taught by Harvard professors. While most students don’t receive degrees though the Extension School, they are still available. In 2008, the Extension School awarded 111 bachelors and 91 masters degrees. Numerous universities with nationally recognized brands are moving in the direction of educational accessibility. Unfortunately, Miami seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Forty-eight years have passed since the founding of Miami’s first satellite campus in Middletown. Throughout this time, our university has provided value for students, advanced intellectual causes, increased the national recognition and prestige of our brand, advanced the long-term interests of the State of Ohio and provided accessible education options to our local community. What does the Miami of the next 48 years look like? Will we spend our time finessing outcome statistics, curtailing ten seconds of campus confusion from out-of-state applicants and collecting outrageous parking fines? Or will we spend our time developing a small portion of tomorrow’s better society?

I hope to see our administration craft some creative proposals for the regional campuses. How can we better integrate Hamilton and Middletown with Oxford? Can funds be appropriated to improve facilities at the regionals? And if so, can we see a detailed proposal as to what improvements would be made? Perhaps we can finally witness the regional campuses viewed as a drastically underappreciated asset, not a troublesome liability.

Alexander Wolfram

wolfraac@miamioh.edu

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