College of St. Scholastica expanding into Arizona

Opening up to the Southwest (Edith OSB)

The College of St. Scholastica has announced it’s expanding into Arizona — making it one of the few Minnesota private nonprofit colleges to have sites out of state.

Scholastica’s vice president for strategic initiatives, Don Wortham, says the Duluth-based school has opened its first out-of-state site at a higher-education center in a suburb of Phoenix.

“The demographics of the upper Midwest are challenging for higher education institutions that are interested in growing,” he said. “The Phoenix market, into the foreseeable future, is expected to add up to a Duluth’s worth of population each year.”

The five undergraduate and graduate courses Scholastica is offering through the center are related to health care.

They’re available only online. But personnel there help students in those classes with admissions, financial aid and advising.

“We’ll bring other programs out as the market requires,” Wortham said, “but we’re leading with our strength, initially.”

The college plans to offer on-campus classes in Spring 2015, and hopes to build a campus for primarily graduate health programs as early as 2016.

If the Arizona campus is successful, Wortham said, Scholastica may expand to other cities in the Southwest — such as Tucson.

The site, located at a center called Communiversity in the city of Surprise, enables Phoenix students to attend one of a handful of community colleges located at the center and then go on to earn a degree from Scholastica.

The college will also offer non-credit professional development sessions in health-care related fields.

Private-college officials say it’s uncommon for a nonprofit Minnesota college to have sites out of state.

Two examples are Bethel University, which has a seminary in San Diego. St. Mary’s University of Minnesota offers graduate programs in education through universities in Jamaica and Kenya.

Paul Cerkvenik, president of the Minnesota Private College Council, said it’s not likely that many other private, nonprofit colleges might seize opportunities to expand into other states.

He said it’s reasonable to think that Scholastica can expand more easily because it is starting with a highly focused program — health care — that is easier to export than a broader liberal-arts education.