Surge Reported In Bakers Grad Online Enrollment

May 16, 2002
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MUSKEGON — Baker College announced that new student enrollment has increased dramatically at its campus in the Port City.

The same also applies, it adds, for its Lansing-based Center for Graduate Studies and for Baker College On-line, also operated from Lansing.

Baker said its current Muskegon enrollment now is at 3,000 — a record — which it said is an increase of 9 percent over enrollment at the same time last year.

Also, Mike Heberling, president of Baker's graduate studies center, told the Business Journal that the center reported an increase of 16 percent in MBA enrollment above last year's enrollment.

Essentially an administrative office in Lansing, the center oversees Baker's MBA training statewide, both online and on the college's 11 campuses and four satellite operations.

Spokesmen for the college's Muskegon campus said it was impossible to indicate how many students in the Muskegon area are enrolled in such MBA courses because they may be studying either online or in the campus's classrooms or both.

In Muskegon, Baker's MBA courses take place in the same facilities as undergraduate programs and it's difficult to tell from one term to another how many graduate-level students actually are on campus.

It is known, however, that statewide the average age of Baker students is 36 and — consistent with so many other colleges — slightly more than half, 54 percent, of the MBA enrollees are women.

While the school's officials are pleased with the growth in graduate and undergraduate enrollment, they see the real growth coming where other colleges do: in home studies that take place online.

Statewide, Heberling said the college reports that the number of online enrollees more than doubled in this year's summer quarter as opposed to last year's.

Like other colleges, Baker's campus enrollment tends to be seasonal, with fewer students during summer quarters and more the rest of the year. But online enrollment doesn't seem to reflect the same swings, perhaps because older students — especially those owning laptops — can study just as well at nights during summer vacation trips as they can at home on winter nights.

Moreover, Baker administrators say so-called distance learning seems to fit in the lives of people already well into their careers.

"Our online program continues to be one of the most successful in the nation," Heberling said.

"Its growth is demonstrative of how today's students have incorporated technology into their daily lives, including the way they pursue their education."

Julia Teahen, the college's vice president for distance learning and instructional technology, asserts that the institution's career focus also is responsible for its gain in popularity.

"It is gaining (popularity) among professionals who are seeking advanced education that fits the needs of today's workplace," she said. She says Baker's online program is one of the most comprehensive e-learning programs in the country.

Another aspect of Baker's popularity may be that, according to school officials, its tuition rates rank among the lowest 15 percent of private colleges in the state.

Heberling said the center's program and Baker's online program help make the private non-profit college system the largest of its kind in Michigan.

He said the Baker programs are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Baker College system, a non-profit higher education institution, serves more than 20,000 students granting certificates, associate, bachelor and master degrees in business, health and human services, education and technical fields.

For more information about Baker College, check out its Web site at www.baker.edu. BJX

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