A private university opening satellite campuses at community colleges might seem a bit odd. But Brandman University, a private nonprofit institution based in Irvine, Calif., has a long history of serving working, nontraditional students similar to those who attend community colleges.
This month, the university opened its fifth satellite campus at a community college, giving it four in California and one in Washington state. After community college students complete their general education requirements, they can transfer to a Brandman bachelor’s degree program without moving to a different campus.
Saskia Knight, Brandman’s executive vice chancellor of enrollment and student affairs, shares how this community college satellite program began, how new community college campuses are selected and how Brandman’s tuition compares to public schools.
How did Brandman start offering degrees at community colleges? The chancellor of College of the Canyons (COC), based in Santa Clarita, Calif., invited Brandman to participate in COC’s University Center, which opened in 2009 and allows COC students to earn bachelor’s degrees without having to move to a different campus. Today, four other universities—two California State Universities and two other private universities—are also participating in the COC University Center.
“We have a transfer agreement with community colleges we choose to rent space from, and students can meet with career and academic counselors at Brandman while still in their first year at the community college,” Knight says.
How do you choose a new campus and the degrees offered there? “We have a rigorous process,” Knight says. First, Brandman officials make sure other four-year institutions affiliated with the college aren’t already offering similar degrees. “Then, we determine the size of the pipeline from the community college, the number of transfer students annually and the distance from an existing Brandman campus,” she says. After extensively discussing the partnership internally and with the community college, Brandman signs a contract with the community college. Brandman then asks the regional accrediting agency for approval of the programs to be offered.
How much is Brandman tuition at a community college? Brandman tuition is about $100 per credit more than California State University tuition, Knight says. Community college students at a Brandman satellite site who agree during their first year to transfer to Brandman are eligible for a tuition reduction of 10 to 15 percent.
Knight offers the following tips to other private institutions interested in offering four-year degrees on community college campuses.
- Take the time to build the relationship. Brandman officials visited the COC campus for years before signing the agreement to offer degrees there.
- Carefully select the degrees to be offered. Brandman chooses which programs to offer based on student demand and the local job market. “We have employees who talk to local employers, and our site directors will have in-depth discussions with faculty at community colleges. Some programs can take up to six years to create,” Knight says.
- Break private college cost stereotypes. Offering reasonable tuition is a must.
- Communicate what your institution can offer. “In California, the community colleges understand the public options and will typically direct students to the California State Universities and Universities of California,” Knight says. “[Community colleges] need to understand what your institution brings to the table.”