Innovation is good. "Thinking outside-the-box" is great. Both of those qualities are exactly what the education system in this country needs. But sometimes we must ask ourselves: When does the cost of a novel education technique outweigh the benefit?
Tiffin University recently announced it will be closing its Lima and Mentor branch campuses in order to shift its focus to online classes in the smaller cities Tiffin also has branches in Toledo, Columbus and Elyria.
This development is disappointing on several fronts.
A large part of the appeal of branch campuses is that they make education more accessible. While there is no denying online programs are growing and certainly constitute a viable and innovative portal to education, something is lacking: Online courses do not provide access to the classroom experience.
The give and take between professors and students is a huge part of a comprehensive education. An online forum or message board is fine, but not the same as a face to face discussion. And, while Lima and Mentor students could take online classes through a plethora of universities, their options to physically attend a class are a lot more limited.
Branch campuses also are big boons for cities. One of the larger goals laid out in Norwalk's Comprehensive Plan is to bring a branch campus of a university to the city. Tiffin University's decision would certainly seem to indicate that many colleges are looking to cut back on branch campuses, not expand them.
As state officials continue to explore higher education options, we hope they do not lose sight of the importance of branch campuses and two-year universities, both to students and cities.