College of St. Scholastica expands to Arizona campusThe College of St. Scholastica is expanding into Arizona.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The College of St. Scholastica is expanding into Arizona.
Working in phases, it already has opened a site among five other colleges and universities on a campus in Surprise, Ariz., near Phoenix, for online health care programs. Within four years, it hopes to build its own campus in that area and house graduate health care programs there.
“They add the equivalent of a Duluth every year,” said St. Scholastica President Larry Goodwin of the Phoenix area. “It’s an area where people go to retire, and there is always a need for health care professionals.”
The school will first offer health information management and health informatics online programs through its Duluth campus, with support for students at the Surprise complex, a partnership among the schools called the Communiversity. By 2015, students can take classes there in person for graduate and post-baccalaureate nursing and social work degree completion.
When the college builds its own campus, which is expected to cost between $10 million and $20 million, graduate programs for physical and occupational therapy, social work and possibly physician assistants will be offered, according to Don Wortham, vice president for strategic initiatives.
Arizona is underserved by private higher education institutions, he said, and St. Scholastica will be the first Catholic Benedictine school of its kind in the West Valley area. This is a niche the college wanted to fill because of the importance to its mission, Wortham said. The school also was seeking out growth markets.
The population of the Phoenix area is about 4.2 million. The city of Surprise has a population of about 120,000. In 2000, it was only 25,000, said Maria Laughner, Arizona regional director for St. Scholastica.
“They had explosive growth over the last 15 years,” she said. “All of Arizona has been like that.”
And with only two private universities in the area, “it’s practically a virgin playing field,” Laughner said.
She said the growth comes from people escaping the cold and the country’s natural disasters. Also, the cost of living is low, said the Phoenix native, and while there are plenty of retirement communities, the average age is 36.
“Adult children come to visit their parents,” she said, and then move there themselves.
“It’s a good opportunity for the school because the need is so great,” she said, speaking of the health-related fields that St. Scholastica offers.
St. Scholastica — with a total enrollment of about 4,200 students — isn’t ruling out opening campuses in similar communities in that corner of the country, Goodwin said.
“If this model works, there are other markets in the southwest that fit the same profile,” he said.