Seattle Times higher education reporter
When he visited Seattle last week, the president of Northeastern University took pains to explain why the Northwest’s largest city — some 2,500 miles and three times zones away — was a logical site for a private research institution in Boston to open a branch campus.
“Why Seattle?” asked Joseph Aoun. “Because we like the fact that Seattle is a very vibrant urban center. It has industries that are very prominent, industries of the future.”
In January, Northeastern University will open a storefront campus across the street from one of Amazon’s many South Lake Union sites, in the same building as the Institute for Systems Biology. It will offer only graduate-degree programs, taught both online and on-site.
Northeastern’s move — it also has opened a branch campus in Charlotte, N.C. — has created a bit of a buzz among education watchers.
Colleges and universities rarely open branches clear across the country, said Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, an online news source that covers the higher-education industry. The Boston school, a 114-year-old nonprofit university, is well-known for studying its markets closely, Jaschik said.
Branch campuses are very expensive to open and “not easy to pull off — but, knowing Northeastern, they’re very big on studying markets, so they have done a calculation that makes sense,” he said.
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