Surprise! CSS Extends Presence to Arizona Reasons are largely financial

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
By: Jimmy Lovrien  - Student Journalist -
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By 2015, the College of St. Scholastica will offer onsite classes in the town of Surprise, Arizona, approximately 25 miles outside Phoenix.

Currently, online classes through the College of St. Scholastica have been offered through Surprise's so-called Communiversity.

According to the CSS website, a Communiversity is "Part community college, part university, a Communiversity joins community colleges with universities to offer students the opportunity to progress from an associate to bachelor's degree (even master's) under one roof."

The reason for making the move to Arizona is largely financial, says Pat Flattery, Vice President for Finance.

"Here in Minnesota things are kinda tapped out. And we think that going down to the Arizona market that for the long run for the college its going to be very fruitful for us economically," he said in a December town meeting held in Mitchell Auditorium.

He explained that revenue gained from traditional undergraduate students is not enough and the college must now rely on GEO (graduate, extended, and online) students: "GEO is going to be the economic engine that drives what we are able to do here at the college."

GEO enrollment now exceeds traditional enrollment, although revenue-at least for the next year-will come primarily from traditional undergraduate enrollment.

"Whether you like it or not, the reality of the situation is we are gradually-particularly with our GEO programs-becoming more and more of the healthcare type educational institution," Flattery stated.

But later in the town hall forum, Don Wortham, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, offered other reasons for choosing Arizona, largely steering the audience's perception away from this project's focus on financial gains.

The state of Arizona, according to Werthm, has a large Catholic population but has been without many Catholic higher learning institutions. Operating in Arizona would grant CSS the "opportunity to extend mission."

Additionally, there is a need for healthcare professionals in Arizona, which can be attributed to the rise in the region's population of retirees.
The Arizona project can be parceled into several major phases.

Phase one of the Arizona project met approval in October and St. Scolastica officially became the fifth Communiversity on January 1st.  

For the past seven months, a digital advertising campaign has brought "inquiries rolling in and some enrollments." This advertising campaign will continue "forever" like any other school "unless it [CSS in Arizona] becomes a mistake," Don Wartham said, "and then we hope it will be a survivable one."

On ground classes will debut next year during the project's second phase. Courses in Social Work and post graduate nursing programs will be offered.

Clinic-based programs such as Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, and Athletic Training could launch as early as Spring 2017.

The addition of a Physician Assistant program is a long time goal that could take up to ten years.        
The Communiversity is located on the city of Surprise's main complex, built in 2005 and 2006. Surrounding the facility is a library, city center building, and an extensive list of existing sports facilities. Wartham noted the sports facilities would already be in place if the campus expanded.

Later in the presentation, it was hinted that Arizona could eventually teach undergraduate traditional students, but for the time being "the cost basis is just too drastic."

If successful, the College of St. Scholastica could even see multiple campuses in Arizona. These students, however, will likely lack the opportunity for snow days.