Urbana University may become a branch campus of Franklin University in Columbus. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

New Urbana U. leader pledges closer ties with businesses, community

Urbana University’s new executive vice president said Wednesday he plans to develop closer ties between the university and local businesses.

Christopher Washington was named executive vice president of Urbana University last month after former President George Lucas resigned. Washington said Wednesday the university will play a more active role in the region and will develop deeper ties with area businesses, particularly in fields like manufacturing.

“We have to offer programs of study that are relevant to the surrounding community,” Washington said.

RELATED: Manufacturer moving work from South Carolina to Springfield

Washington is taking over at a time when Urbana University will shift to a branch campus of Franklin University. Franklin acquired the Champaign County campus in 2014 after Urbana University faced years of lean enrollment and financial struggles. As part of the deal, Urbana now functions as a division of Franklin but retains its name. Franklin is a private, nonprofit institution based in Columbus.

The two entities currently undergo a separate accreditation process. If Urbana University receives approval to become a branch campus of Franklin, it would fall under Franklin’s accreditation process.

READ MORE: Clark, Champaign farmers seek tax relief

The Columbus school is working through that process with the Higher Learning Commission, an accreditation agency. Franklin hopes to receive approval to combine accreditation for the two universities as early as next month, Washington said.

Urbana University has been under academic probation since November 2014 when the smaller campus faced a variety of challenges. The university has about 1,800 students and has a roughly $31 million economic impact on the region.

DETAILS: Champaign County lawmaker proposes scrapping prevailing wage laws

Washington said he’s already meeting with leaders from Champaign County businesses and school districts to ensure the university’s academic programs are aligned with the skills employers want. Champaign County and the surrounding areas rely heavily on manufacturing, he said.

“We really are looking to ensure we’re more integrated into the Urbana community,” Washington said.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

X