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Plans for HU Peoria campus move forward

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Plans to institute a Huntington University-accredited additional university campus location in Peoria, Arizona, are progressing.

The University is pursing an Economic Development Activities Agreement with the City of Peoria for the development of the additional campus location.

The final version of the Economic Development Activities Agreement between the University and the City of Peoria will be presented for approval by the Peoria City Council and taken to a vote on July 7, 2015.

Since 2010, the City of Peoria has actively pursued attracting institutions of higher education as part of its Economic Development Implementation Strategy (EDIS). The plan aims to establish university campuses throughout the city, including a residential campus. Huntington University has been exploring the opportunity since 2012.

The Huntington University Board of Trustees initially approved the proposal to create a Peoria campus for the institution at its April 26, 2013 meeting and then affirmed an updated scope of operations in Peoria during the October 2014 board meetings.

University administrators have met with city officials on several occasions to determine location, programs and funding sources. Jeff Berggren, former senior vice president for enrollment management and marketing and now a resident of Arizona, has continued to pursue the collaboration between the City of Peoria and Huntington University.

The University is eager to join the Peoria community by bringing Huntington’s nationally recognized Digital Media Arts academic program to Arizona. DMA is Huntington’s largest and fastest growing undergraduate program. Programs offered in Peoria will include broadcast-fusion media, film production and graphic design for the 2016-2017 school year. Digital animation and web development will be launched in 2017-1018.

There are minimal higher education options for Arizona residents in the area of digital media arts, which creates an underserved marketplace and a great opportunity for Huntington University and the City of Peoria.

“The time between our initial awareness of the opportunity in 2012 and today has been very well spent,” Berggren said. “Over the past three years, we have worked with the City of Peoria to narrow our focus to digital media arts as the best initial academic offering and to build relationships which will help our program be strong and vibrant right from the beginning. The key drivers of the HU DMA campus in Peoria will be high quality instruction, affordable tuition, hands-on experiences and job creation.”

After considering a variety of possible means of launching its presence, the University deliberately chose to focus its offerings on a pre-qualified target audience and to bring its most highly-enrolled and distinctive program. It plans to lease space from a landlord who was already working on developing a technology campus, to use Berggren’s experienced enrollment skills and to partner with a well connected and respected local educator along with an experienced film and television professional. The University also will be partnering with the Peoria Unified School District, which has been a leader in Arizona for the media training PUSD students receive while in high school.

The University is licensed to do business in the state of Arizona and is pursuing approval from Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Huntington has qualified for an expedited process with HLC, which should allow HU to receive permission to offer programs in a timely fashion. There is no additional step for program accreditation for DMA on a regional or national level.

“We are appreciative of the work that Jeff Berggren and Dr. Ann McPherren have done to lay the foundation for a solid proposal to the City of Peoria; one that will allow us to expand our mission to Arizona and points west but with careful consideration for any financial pitfalls,” said Greg Smitley, vice president for business and finance/treasurer. “If the vote is affirmative to enter into an Economic Development Agreement with Huntington University, we will proceed with the next steps in the process, namely financial development and student recruitment from the contacts Jeff has been able to make during his time in Arizona.”   

The University will begin marketing and recruiting immediately upon receiving HLC and Arizona DOE approval to locate in Peoria. HU is already working to connect with the Arizona high school and community college digital media networks of teachers and students. This groundwork will yield positive responses for classes beginning in the fall of 2016. The key to early success will be the target marketing of DMA to a pre-qualified and accessible audience along with key partnerships in both education and the media industry.

Watch the Livestream of the City of Peoria City Council meeting July 7. Download the meeting’s agenda