University plans to explore possibility of new Arizona branch 14

By Jessi Emmert

(Logo provided)

The city of Peoria, Ariz., gave unanimous approval Oct. 9 for Huntington University to explore the development of a new campus branch in Peoria.

HU will seek to establish nursing, pre-med, math and visual arts programming in Peoria, according to the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) between the city of Peoria and the university, signed by HU President G. Blair Dowden, Ph.D., Aug. 24.

The purpose of the ENA is to give both parties involved the opportunity to determine the project’s framework, including the financial obligations, student enrollment goals and partners for the project, said Scott Whyte, economic development services director for the city of Peoria, during the city council meeting.

“The exclusive nature of the agreement means that we are not going to talk to other universities during the negotiating period for those programs, and they are not going to shop other cities for those programs,” Whyte said.

The ENA will allow the city to go through their due diligence process with the university to determine how the program would be laid out before being brought back to the city council in an Economic Development Agreement, Whyte said.

Trine University, who HU has partnered with through the Life Science Education and Research Consortium of Northeast Indiana, entered into a similar agreement with the city of Peoria in June.

The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. was also given approval to pursue a new branch in Peoria during the Oct. 9 meeting.

“Among Trine and now potentially Huntington University and St. Scholastica,” Whyte said, “we’re starting the building of consortial models for universities in Peoria.”

HU plans to offer programming at a new Peoria, Ariz. campus.

Whyte said that all three schools could potentially share a campus in Peoria.

“The universities should have time to establish their brand and grow their enrollment,” he said. “The vision is that by year three, maybe year four, to be in a position to build a consortial campus model, a new facility in the city of Peoria that would be the ultimate home for these three universities and then keep growing it as we can add more and more to it.”

Trine has already identified a preferred location, but HU and St. Scholastica have not, Whyte said.

Peoria is a desert community northwest of Phoenix with more than 154,000 residents.

A time frame for the Peoria project has not been announced.

“Plans continue to be made for the future which will bring much needed revenue and extend Huntington University’s mission to new areas and programs,” Dowden said in a September 2012 annual report. “The potential for new programs in Fort Wayne; a new campus in Peoria, Ariz; a for-profit venture; and the expansion of existing on-campus programs point to Huntington University’s future as a strong and viable Christ-centered institution.”

The ENA can be viewed here. The pages referring to HU are 88-102.

Jared Huhta, Laura Good, Brad Barber and Josh Lanphier contributed to this report.

14 thoughts on “University plans to explore possibility of new Arizona branch

  1. Reply Keirsh Cochran Oct 9,2012 11:28 pm

    It seems like just a year ago we didn’t even have enough money to keep professors, pay CMC’s, or give yearly raises…its great to see things have turned around!! Hopefully we will operate this new branch of HU with the same level of financial resposibility and logical budgeting!!

  2. Reply Kris Burgess Oct 10,2012 7:23 am

    I’m with Keirsh.

    Really HU? Why now? Shouldn’t a university get its home campus in order before opening new ones? Just because IWU has campuses everywhere does not mean HU must follow suit.

    How many HIGHLY QUALIFIED FACULTY had to sacrifice their positions at HU for this campus? Too many in my opinion.


  3. Reply John Paff Oct 10,2012 8:56 am

    The short answer to your question, Kris, is none. As challenging as last year was, the difficult budget decisions were designed to, as you put it, get our home campus in order.

    Now, as we begin to turn that corner, shouldn’t HU be exploring new opportunities? Shouldn’t we consider taking our high-quality, Christ-centered academic programs to new and untapped markets? I see Arizona as an unexpected but very exciting opportunity to increase enrollment and extend our mission.

    I encourage you, before passing judgement, to talk to folks like Ann McPherren and Jeff Berggren, who have been spearheading this effort. They can provide you with better background information on the Peoria initiative and the benefits that could come to the main Huntington campus.

  4. Reply Adam Neumeyer Oct 10,2012 9:26 am

    There are more than 4,000 2-year to 4-year colleges in the United States. There is now more than 1 trillion dollars of student debt in this country. My non-rhetorical question is this: Does our species really need more colleges?

  5. Reply Jonathan Bratt Oct 10,2012 10:59 am


    I won’t attempt to answer your question (which is certainly a relevant and serious question), but I should point out that the numbers you quote provide only half of the context necessary for addressing the question.

    Four thousand colleges sounds like a large number, but that can only be evaluated in context of the overall college-age population of the country.

    On a more detailed level, you would want to look at the population vs. college count on a local or regional basis. One of the arguments in favor of establishing a Peoria campus is the fact that there are fewer Christian colleges in that region of the country, relative to the population, than in the midwest.

  6. Reply John Paff Oct 10,2012 11:36 am

    Good point, Johnathan. In fact, there are no other CCCU campuses currently in Arizona. Check it out:

    Jeff Berggren provides a little context in this announcement:

    Community leaders in Arizona say they need HU. That’s why they invited us to explore the opportunity over the next 180 days.

  7. Reply Bri Brenneman Oct 10,2012 12:44 pm

    First of all, I want to say this is a great idea. As Jon mentioned, Christian colleges in Arizona are almost non-existent. High school students in Arizona have very few options of schools to attend. Of course, there is Arizona State, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and a plethora of community colleges. If a student seeks a private, liberal arts education, however, that student has to go out of state (typically to California). I am working for a private liberal arts institution in Mesa, Arizona (about an hour east of Peoria, on the other side of Phoenix) and we are the first Catholic university in the state. Private, religious institutions are unheard of in Arizona.

    I will admit my surprise to hear that Huntington could be coming to Arizona. Of course after all the budget cuts last year, how could I not be? I have confidence however, that G. Blair, Jeff Beggren, and other individuals at the university have more knowledge about higher education budget than me and that they will make a decision in the best interest of the university. Huntington needs to take into consideration, however, the unforeseen costs that come with building a new branch campus. And trust me, there are a lot of these.

    As far as the model Peoria has for a consortial campus, this is a model that many cities in Arizona are currently trying out right now in an attempt to not only bring more universities to the state of Arizona, but to make “college towns” out of struggling cities. Mesa is one of these cities, and the university I am employed at is part of a consortial model as well. I would warn Huntington against a shared campus, because although the three universities can sign a non-competitive agreement, there will be competition nonetheless. Our campus has decided against sharing a building with the other universities in our consortium because we have quickly found how much of a struggle this has been. This is the best decision we could have made. There are some very neat benefits to conspiring with other universities and partnering with them, but there is competition also that puts an amazing amount of stress on the shoulders of recruiters.

    All in all, I think this is a very exciting initiative Huntington has taken on. There are many Christian high schools in the area and I know those students will be thrilled to hear Huntington is coming to their state. My time at Huntington was irreplaceable, and I think students in the state of Arizona deserve the same incredible experience I had.

  8. Reply Jerod Hevel Oct 10,2012 12:50 pm

    Based on the negative feedback that has occurred it seems that this would have been better suited to allow the university itself to share this news first. I understand that a journalist would want to break a story, but I think that it would take more integrity to ensure that the university did not want to break this type of story first. I am unsure what all occurred behind the scenes for this article, so if you did these things then I mean no harm. If this kind of consultation did not happen then I think it could have been handled better. The article could have easily been in response to the breaking news, instead of being a late night article that seems to have not gave the university time to break it themselves.

  9. Reply Keirsh Cochran Oct 10,2012 2:05 pm

    I’m a bit surprised at how quick everyone is to stand by President Dowden. This is a President that led us into the worst budget crises in recent history. We simply say, “I’m sure he is doing all he can to help us.” These seem to be the same people that tend to lean toward getting President Barack Obama out of office because of the damage he has done with 4 years of poor economic decisions. Someone please help me resolve this inconsistency. Maybe this is a comment better on the budget story from last year, but it seems relevant. I don’t want to discuss politics but why the lack of accountability for G. Blair. I think most would agree, its rarely a good thing for someone to hold a great deal of leadership for too long (term limits).

  10. Reply Will Stauffer Oct 10,2012 2:44 pm

    This is exciting news! I think this is a great opportunity for the University to generate more revenue to help out the main campus here in Huntington.

    My question is, where are all the sources from HU in this article, like Ann McPherren and President Dowden? I would love to hear from the people who are actually making this all happen. Perhaps it would have been better if the University broke the story and the Huntingtonian provide a great, well informed, multiple angled piece with lots of interviews and opinions. Maybe then we students would be better informed as to how this affects us and our campus.

    And could we talk about Huntington University and President Dowden WITHOUT talking about the United States and President Obama? Maybe I’m wrong, but those don’t seem to be related. I’m all for talking about one or the other, but I don’t think this is the place to bring up American politics.

  11. Reply Luke Brenneman Oct 10,2012 2:59 pm

    There is a huge market for universities like Huntington out here. We just moved to Phoenix a few months ago, and the lack of options for high school students choosing colleges baffles me. Arizona State has nearly 75,000 students this year, which is the most in the world, I believe. Why do they go to ASU? They don’t have many other options. Community colleges and three state schools (ASU, UA, and NAU) are pretty much everything. New Mexico, a neighboring state, is in a similar situation. Communities here are trying to provide more options for their college-bound members, many of whom would love to have the options for Christian colleges available in the Midwest. So, we have students who want universities like HU and communities that want to bring in universities like HU to provide for those students.
    I do not at all have enough information to decide if Huntington building a campus in this area is a good idea, and I wish that others would realize that they don’t, either before posting definitive position statements. I am just noting on the opportunities that are abundantly available in this area.

  12. Reply Keirsh Cochran Oct 11,2012 10:07 am

    Spoken like a true front line forester Will. I believe the staff at the Huntingtonian was working with breaking news and they published what they had and what they saw at the meeting which they watched live. There is a quote from Dowden in there. It seems fair to me. Well before you raised that point they were hard at work digging deeper and collecting the interviews you asked for. As for my point, you missed it. I am not trying to make this about politics. My point is if we hold our national leaders accountable for poor budgeting decisions, why on earth wouldn’t we hold out University leader accountable. 20 years of President Dowden’s budget plan brought us to the greatest budget crises in recent history. If the CEO of a company led the business into a budget crises then only a year later proposed expansion, that leader would be under a fair amount of questioning by stockholders.

  13. Reply Lucy Luedeke Oct 14,2012 5:07 pm

    It feels good to finally be able to comment now that I am not on staff anymore.

    Jerod: I’m not sure what your comment means exactly because it is pretty vague, so if you feel I am misunderstanding what you mean then I apologize. A journalist is not doing their job, or being a journalist at all, if all they do is follow up stories on things that have already been announced. If that’s all they did, then they wouldn’t be covering news…because it wouldn’t be new. What do you mean by a “consultation?”

    An article would never be run without proper sourcing, which this article does have. I have respect for both Public Relations and journalism, but it is not the job of The Huntingtonian to work for the university as their PR department, only publishing stories that the university has already released. The article was not handled poorly in any way.

    If the university wanted to break the story themselves, they had every chance to do so after releasing the annual report that G. Blair Dowden is quoted in in this article. Scott Whyte is also a valid source to be quoted, as well as the ENA which is linked to at the bottom of the article.

    And to your comment of this being a “late night article that seems to not have given the university time to break it themselves,” I say good job to The Huntingtonian for reporting news…like a newspaper should.

    The piece is fair and multi-angled. There are three sources. Scott Whyte, the ENA, and the annual report quoting Dowden. A source doesn’t always have to be personal interviews. It can be documents too.

  14. Reply Jared Murray Oct 19,2012 5:00 pm

    I’m going to have to agree with Luke on this.

    I’ve been living out in Phoenix for close to a year now, and the market for Christian universities is pretty ripe. The major Christian institution in the state is Grand Canyon University, and it’s pretty close to being a Division 1 athletic school now, due to its incredibly large enrollment. While I don’t agree with a number of HU’s past financial decisions, I see nothing wrong with exploring this possibility. After all, that’s simply all that’s going on here at this stage: exploration. They aren’t building the campus yet. They haven’t signed any agreements entirely. The poor business decision here would be to not explore the possibilities elsewhere, while at the same time, fixing the home front.

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