(TNS) — Students will head to Miami University's regional campuses in Middletown, Hamilton and West Chester this fall with more bachelor's degrees to study and online courses to take.
School leaders are taking up a charge from the colleges' trustees to add more degrees and to determine a new name for Miami's regional system. Last year Miami's officials, faculty and students debated the future of the regional campuses and looked at ways to distinguish the schools from the flagship location in Oxford.
Among the biggest changes students will notice when they head to class this fall are the three new bachelor's degrees the schools will offer, said regional campus spokesman Perry Richardson. The regional campuses will offer a total of nine bachelor's degrees this fall. The new four-year degrees unveiled this year are commerce, information technology and liberal studies.
Students return to class Aug. 24.
"The only changes regional campus students will notice in the fall will be the availability of more bachelor's degree programs to choose from," Richardson said in an email. He said no additional staff were added at the campuses to teach the new degrees.
He added that students will be greeted with a new one-stop center on the campuses in Hamilton and Middletown, which are currently under construction. The centers will offer financial aid, billing, records and class registration all in one spot for students.
College leaders are also planning to offer the schools' first master's degree program in criminal justice studies, which is slated to be available in the fall of 2016. The school is also making plans to add a master's degree in nursing in coming years.
Miami regional officials hope to attract working professionals to those degree programs, which will allow students to take online courses so they can balance work and school. The new commerce and liberal studies degrees also have online course components.
Roughly 150 courses can be taken online through the regional campuses, said Janet Hurn, the coordinator of regional e-learning initiatives for the college.
"We're trying to open our doors and make our education more accessible by putting more programs online," she said. "Miami is not traditionally known as an online institution. We're trying to let students know that there's a flexible option."
More than 10 percent of the classes offered last year on the regional campuses were taken either through a hybrid of online and classroom courses or strictly online classes, according to data from the school. Hurn said the school is working to increase the number of online course selections by two percent every year.
But work still needs to be done.
Several campus committees are fine-tuning some of the recommendations for change, including re-branding the campuses and tenuring regional campus faculty separately from the main campus, made by trustees earlier this fall. Richardson said a new name to identify the three campus regionals hasn't been developed yet.
Associate professor Ted Light is overseeing the committee that will define how professors at the regional locations, especially those who teach common courses such as English, will maintain relationships with professors in Oxford.
"The hope and desire is they want to have a continued affiliation with (Oxford)," Light said of some regional campus academic departments.
Miami initially looked at making changes to the regional campuses last year because of dwindling enrollment at the regional campuses. This year's final enrollment numbers at the regional campuses are not yet available, Richardson said.
©2015 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.