Multicampus Planning: Behind the Scenes: How Four Institutions Solved Their Branch Campus Scheduling and Transportation Challenges

Article excerpt

ONE HARDLY NEEDS TO BE A SPACE OR TRANSPORTATION planning expert to realize this: Having classes and services on more than one campus presents logistical challenges. Which faculty and staff should be based at the "other" campus? What classes should be held there? What transportation programs are needed? How do you ensure that those heading over there for class don't miss too much on the main campus because of the travel time?

Cecilia Rivers, president of the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators, says class scheduling and space utilization can certainly be issues. Situations where cooperative partnerships exist between administrators on both campuses are best, adds Rivers, also assistant vice president of Western Region Campuses of the University of Central Florida.

When a branch campus doesn't have a full range of facilities, it can seem an undesirable location. "There's always the issue of keeping people tied back to the main campus," says Daniel Paulien, president of Paulien & Associates in Denver, which works with colleges and universities on facilities planning, including the use of space. Yet sometimes faculty and staff reluctant to be based on the other campus admit later to liking where they're at.

Here's how four institutions with multiple campuses approached their individual multicampus space and transportation issues.

Binghamton University, State University of New York: A Downtown Presence In fall 2007, Binghamton's University Downtown Center opened a few miles from the main campus. But the work for Michelle Ponczek, director of space planning resources, began long before that. Administrators had decided the 74,400-square-foot facility could help solve a space problem on the main campus--three-hour classes taking up multiple time blocks and leaving empty classrooms on some days. By holding nearly all three-hour classes downtown, space on the main campus could be maximized. And students, as well as faculty based on the main campus, might only have to head downtown weekly.

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Ponczek used SAS software to analyze course data from the registrar and fit three-hour courses into the standard meeting period times on each day of the week--so students traveling downtown would miss as few class periods back on the main campus as possible.

Officials decided that the College of Community and Public Affairs would be based at the Downtown Center, which includes 11 classrooms, conference areas, offices, a library/computer pod, a lounge, and a coffee kiosk. While some faculty expressed concern about being located there, the new facility and downtown location sounded great to others, Ponczek says.

David Husch, director of Off Campus College and the administrative liaison to Binghamton's student-run bus system, had to ensure students who live on or near campus (including in a newer student apartment complex located between the University Center and main campus) could get downtown and then back to campus 10 minutes prior to the start time of the next period's class. "The idea is that they will only miss the meet time before and meet time after," Ponczek says. Prior to the buildings opening, the dean's office sent all students information on travel to and from the Downtown Center.

Initially buses ran every half hour, but they've increased to every 15 minutes, with two runs originating from the main campus, one of which swings by the apartments. The university's 11-bus fleet could handle the new routes, Husch explains. Still, the contract with the bus system which uses that fleet but is student-managed--had to be renegotiated to account for the extra gas, repairs, and driver time.

Husch's advice about planning for a new branch campus: Start transportation planning early. "People who don't have any knowledge of a bus system just think they can snap their fingers and say, 'Let's have a bus stop here,'" he explains. …