The University of Massachusetts opened its first satellite campus today. The university is inviting people to sign up for classes that start later this year in downtown Springfield.
University and city officials took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday -- with about 200 people looking on -- to mark the formal opening of the UMass Center at Springfield.
Springfield native Henry Thomas, who is chairman of the UMass board of trustees, strongly advocated for Springfield to be the location of the university’s first satellite campus. He said it will expand access to the land grant university and help revitalize a struggling urban center.
" This is the beginning of an important new chapter in the city of Springfield as the University of Massachusetts steps forward in a purposeful way to provide academic programs in the heart of the city and providing hope and the promise for a better future for the residents of Springfield and the area at large."
For now, the only part of the new downtown campus that is open to the public is the welcome center located on the first floor of the Tower Square building at 1500 Main Street. The classroom space located on the second floor is still under construction. University officials say people can visit the welcome center to learn about course offerings, inquire about financial aid, and register for classes that will start September 2nd.
Forty courses are being offered initially in fields such as nursing, addiction counseling, architecture, cyber security and casino management. The courses were chosen based on research that looked at local employer needs, employment trends and education levels. The co-director of the Springfield center, Lynn Griesemer said each of the UMass campuses contributed courses.
" The tuition is based on the campus. All of the courses and all the faculty come from whatever campus the course is being offered from."
The UMass Springfield campus is working closely with Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College. It is expected to attract community college students who want to earn a four-year degree but find it difficult to take classes at the flagship Amherst Campus located 25 miles from Springfield.
University President Robert Caret said there is no enrollment target. The university signed a five-year lease with an option to double the current classroom space for 900 students.
" Because I've been through these where the demand exceeds expectations and I've been through these in other states where the demand did not meet expectations. We feel Springfield has the critical mass here and the Springfield-Hartford corridor gives us a real chance at strong success."
A UMass campus in Springfield has been a long-held goal of city officials. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said having college-age students downtown will help the city retain young professionals and perhaps even encourage them to live downtown.
" This is economic development. This is an important catalyst for the city of Springfield as we move forward."
The UMass campus in Springfield will be administered by the flagship Amherst campus. It has an annual operating budget of $2 million.