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December 24, 2018 Economic Forecast: Higher education

Focus on money: Colleges will offer more value for students while looking to generate more revenue

Clark University has sought to give students better value by offering 4+1 programs where students can earn bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.

More partnerships on the way

In 2018, Central Massachusetts colleges saw the value like never before, at least in recent years, of partnering on academic programs letting students get their degree earlier than they might otherwise – and in the process save a lot on tuition.

In just a few examples this year, Worcester State University and Nichols College in Dudley signed a deal letting Worcester State criminal justice majors get a master's degree in counter-terrorism a year ahead of time; the UMass School of Law let Worcester State and Framingham State students earn bachelor's and law degrees in six years; and Framingham State University partnered with Assumption College in Worcester and Newbury College in Brookline to give students in biotechnology and English an option to earn a graduate degree just one year after getting their bachelor's degree.

Area colleges have come together in other ways, too, including a deal announced in January by Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Quinsigamond Community College they'll start a new photonics lab thanks to a $4-million Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative grant.

Such agreements are ways for colleges to keep students in the area as they earn advanced degrees and use one another's strengths in their respective programs. Look for deals like these to continue tying schools to their peers.

Other sources of revenues

As the WBJ reported this summer, local colleges are increasingly holding non-degree credential programs as a way to bring in more revenue at a time when fewer students are graduating from high school or coming here from abroad, giving schools a smaller pool from which they can draw students.

These programs benefit colleges in a few ways: They're likely to be held at night, on weekends or even at offices, where they're often held in conjunction with a business looking to freshen up the skills of its workforce. They are cheaper for colleges because these students don't need a dorm room or a meal plan.

Schools holding these programs, including WPI and Nichols College, among others, aren't the only ones turning to less-traditional education.

From 2000 to 2014, the number of non-degree credentials granted nationally by public four-year institutions rose fourfold, to 200,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Area colleges know they'll need to get creative to bring in more revenue and find new students. These programs will likely become only more common.

More Holy Cross construction

In 2018, the College of the Holy Cross cut the ribbon on the $95-million Luth Athletic Complex, a facility including an indoor football field to be used for all sports, a gym for basketball and volleyball, a 9,500-square-foot strength and conditioning center and a 3,000-square-foot space for sports medicine. It includes locker rooms for varsity teams, offices and meeting rooms for all sports programs and an exterior plaza to host events.

A mini building boom on the hilltop campus is set to continue in the coming year with a $92-million arts building called the Center for Arts and Creativity.

The venue is eyed for several performance spaces, offering performance and rehearsal programs for the theater and music departments, as well as a new space for the Cantor Art Gallery. It will include a 400-seat concert hall and theater and a 200-seat studio theater.

On the horizon is a recreation and wellness center to replace the school's field house. Construction is slated to start in the spring, with plans calling for two multi-purpose courts, an elevated indoor running track and new equipment and space for weight and cardio training.

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