Wright State president: School could learn from branch campus success

Wright State University has suffered massive budget problems and enrollment declines at its Fairborn campus, but just over 80 miles north, a place by the same name is doing considerably better.

Wright State’s Lake Campus in Celina is growing and building, even as the branch’s mother-ship in Dayton has shrunk and suffered a number of setbacks over the last few years.

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Wright State slashed more than $30.8 million from its budget in June, and though “the financial health of Wright state is important to everybody” at the school, the financial issues have not been felt on the Lake Campus, said Dean Jay Albayyari. The Lake Campus actually operates on its own budget and is funded through its own revenue streams, which are also separate from the main campus, Albayyari said.

While Wright State has been marred by scandal, lawsuits and financial setbacks, the Lake Campus has remained one of the university’s bright spots.

“The Lake Campus is a gem,” said university president Cheryl Schrader. “I want people to see that there’s more to Wright State than what they already know.”

Fall enrollment at the Lake Campus was up by more than 6 percent this year to 1,426 students, and Albayyari thinks it could grow to around 2,500 in the next two or three years. The branch has had the highest enrollment growth of any four-year institution in the state, Albayyari said.

RELATED: Wright State faculty union concerned about furlough talk

The branch campus is nearly finished building a new agriculture and water quality center, and a new library is in the works too, administrators said.

Wright State’s main campus has a few lessons to learn from the success of the university’s branch, Schrader said.

Since its inception, the Lake Campus has become know for its ability to respond to workforce needs by working closely with nearby businesses. That continues today as the school looks to build an advanced manufacturing center on campus.

It’s a strategy Schrader has called on Wright State’s main campus to adopt. Before she even arrived at the university in July, Schrader had said that the school should look to partner with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and surrounding businesses in order to better meet area needs.

“These types of innovations are serving the lake campus,” Schrader said. “I think the Dayton campus could learn from them.”

RELATED: Wright State faculty union: Cutting jobs not the ‘fix WSU needs’

The 1962 founding of the branch campus actually predates the establishment of Wright State by about five years. At first the Western Ohio Educational Foundation, as it was called, was affiliated with Ohio Northern University before agreeing to become Wright State’s sole branch campus in 1969, according to the school.

The branch now offers 16 associate’s degrees, 18 bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree program. It also has three student housing complexes and its own sports teams known as the Lakers.

“This is no longer the campus where people pick up two classes and leave or transfer,” Albayyari said. “We offer programs that people want to come here and take from start to finish.”

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