Franklin University’s first branch campus will be established next month at Urbana University in western Ohio.
A liberal-arts school of nearly 2,000 students in Champaign County, Urbana will retain its name, and significant improvements will be made to its academic and athletic programs. Becoming a branch campus means that Urbana will no longer be on academic probation, a status that has stunted its growth since November 2014.
The Higher Learning Commission, an independent regional accrediting agency, recently approved the consolidation, effective Aug. 1.
“This has unleashed us — our creativity, and our ability to leverage the talents of our colleagues at Franklin University’s main campus to meet the demands of our region,” said Christopher Washington, Urbana University’s executive vice president and provost.
The arrangement combines two private universities with quite different profiles: Urbana is on a 128-acre campus with dorms and sports teams, while Franklin’s main campus in Downtown’s Discovery District mostly serves adult commuter and online students.
Franklin bought Urbana and its assets in April 2014 when Urbana was facing dire financial troubles. Franklin has since invested more than $15 million there in campus improvements and scholarships, officials said.
Becoming a branch campus has kept Urbana University from closing, which could have been a devastating loss for its namesake city of about 12,000 people. The university’s influence goes well beyond its campus, as its economic impact in the region is estimated at $31 million.
“Since the announcement, I’ve received such a positive outpouring of support from the community,” Washington said.
Washington took on the leadership role in April after the resignation of Urbana’s president of two years, George Lucas.
Officials at both campuses have been working together since the 2014 sale to balance Urbana’s budget and develop plans for short- and long-term success, they said. A primary goal is to better align academic programs at the branch campus with the needs of the surrounding community’s job market.
Soon, class credits should be transferable between the campuses.
“We’re looking forward to a period of growth and renewal for Urbana University as a division and branch campus of Franklin University,” said David Decker, Franklin’s president.
Franklin University also offers courses at free-standing locations in Beavercreek, Dublin and Gahanna and at nearly 20 community colleges in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Its enrollment is about 9,000, Decker said.
Urbana was founded in 1850 by members of the Swedenborgian Church as a seminary.
Franklin was founded in 1902 under sponsorship by the local YMCA.