Massachusetts state legislators Monday announced $250,000 for the UMass Center at Springfield.
The $250,000 line item in the state budget covers about a quarter of the annual cost to operate the downtown Springfield campus of the University of Massachusetts flagship, according to UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.
"Receiving this latest appropriation helps subsidize operational costs ensuring that we will continue serving the greater Springfield area," said Subbaswamy as he thanked local legislators for working to secure the funds in the state budget.
UMass opened the Springfield center five years ago – the first satellite campus in the state university system’s history. Enrollment has held steady at about 300 students a year.
The UMass Amherst satellite campus in Springfield has a successful bachelor of science degree program in nursing and a popular part-time MBA program as well as UMass’s online course offerings. Additionally, the center collaborates with the Springfield Public Schools in an effort to promote STEM education and it offers its large classroom spaces to host community gatherings and public meetings.
"I would consider it certainly a success and I think we can build on that success," said Subbaswamy.
When the satellite campus was being developed five years ago there was talk it would tailor courses to meet the workforce development needs of local employers. Jamina Scippio-McFadden, the newly-named director of the UMass Center in Springfield, said new course offerings will be developed as part of a strategic planning process.
"We are looking for opportunities to grow in terms of academic programs that we offer," said Scippio-McFadden. "We are looking at what other academic programs can we offer residents here in Springfield."
As discussions began several years ago about opening a satellite UMass campus in Springfield there was some concern it could be a competitor to several of the long-established small private colleges in the city, but Democratic State Representative Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield said that has not been the case.
"I have not seen nor heard of any negatives because of the downtown campus here," said Gonzalez. "As I walked in here, I saw close to 80 students in a nursing program that if UMass downtown was not here would not have that opportunity. That was exciting to see."
Gonzalez said the city’s entire legislative delegation has worked to insure continued funding for the UMass Springfield campus in the state budget.
" Because education is a key to success and access to education is so important and we have that challenge here in the city of Springfield," said Gonzalez.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the UMass satellite campus has helped bring vibrancy to the city’s downtown.
" This is a very very vital part not only for economic development and education, but it is a huge morale boost for the city of Springfield," stated Sarno.
The UMass campus in Springfield is located on the mezzanine level of the Tower Square shopping center, which like most urban malls is eager to attract non-retail tenants.