Asbury closes satellite campus in Florida

By Karis Rogerson
News Editor

At the end of the spring 2014 semester, Asbury will shut down its satellite campus in Orlando, Fla.

According to Dr. Bill Hall, dean for graduate and professional studies, the satellite campus is being shut down for two reasons. “We were not eligible for the large Florida state aid,” Hall said of the first reason. 

Since the school’s main campus is located in Kentucky, students who attended Asbury in Florida were unable to receive the financial aid that they could have received at similar schools in Florida. “It cost more for a Florida student to come to our institution than it would be to go to a [similar] institution that had a residence in Florida,” he said.

Additionally, Hall mentioned a change in the marketplace as another main reason; due to the growing trend of community colleges, fewer students felt the need to attend Asbury when they could just attend a community college. 

According to a US News article from April 2012, community college enrollment jumped from 5.5 million in 2000 to more than 8 million in the 2010-2011 school year. 

He explained that the focus of the Florida campus is the Advanced Professional Studies (APS) program, one dedicated to allowing non-traditional students to continue their undergraduate education. 

The campus was established in the fall of 2009, according to the registrar’s office. That first semester, 18 students were enrolled. Since then, enrollment has fluctutated, between 9 students enrolled this semester, and 38, in the spring of 2012. 

Because Asbury Theological Seminary already had a location in Florida, the administration decided it would make sense to place a satellite campus there, in order to share facilities.

“Since we had a sister institution down there, we evaluated and thought that Florida would be a good place to start,” Hall said. 

Additionally, he said, Florida needed more elementary education teachers. Because elementary education is a strong major at Asbury, the administration felt it was a good place to send a satellite school.

Being a satellite school, campus facilities were minimal in Florida: “It doesn’t have a cafeteria, and it doesn’t have counseling services,” Hall said. “It’s not like this kind of campus, which is full service.”

The campus was created for distance-learning, a method of teaching in which a professor and APS class at Asbury were connected via video cameras to a classroom in Florida. 

A distance-learning classroom is equipped with at least two video cameras, which record the professor for the students in the satellite classroom, and two television screens at the back of the room, in which the professor can see not only the class in Florida but also the material as it appears to that class. Dr. Gerald Miller, an Asbury professor, explained that the reason for the process was the university’s desire to change and adapt with technology. 

Despite the distance between the Kentucky and Florida classes, Miller said, “There was opportunity for camaraderie and good interaction that we expect to have at Asbury. It was not a situation where there was detachment.” 

Miller added that each professor tried to create personal relationships with each member of the class and shared the story of one class in which the students from Kentucky decided to give their Florida counterparts a surprise. “The Kentucky students drove all the way down to Orlando and surprised them on Monday night, and they were just delighted,” Miller said. 

He described how the Kentucky students had ordered pizza for the whole class as well as his experience teaching an empty classroom. “I went in to the distance-learning classroom here in Kentucky and there was nobody with me…and they were just having a great time.”

Although there were many great aspects to the distance-learning side, Miller also explained that it was often tiring. Each class met once a week, four hours a night, for five weeks, with the professor teaching in Kentucky for four weeks and in Florida for one week. 

“We arranged with the state of Florida that we were to go down in person at least one of those five sessions,” Miller said. If the class took place on a Monday night, for example, Miller would leave Kentucky in the morning, fly to Orlando, have an hour of rest, teach from 6-10 p.m. and fly back to Wilmore on Tuesday.

“The next day after flying back, I would be back in the classroom [in Wilmore],” he said. “It was not a fun trip…it was business, business, business, and it was tiring, but it had some enjoyment to it.” One of the reasons he enjoyed the classes was their small size: each one would have approximately a dozen students.

The projected shutdown does not officially take place until the department of education in Florida has been notified. “It is our intent to notify them, but officially our campus is still alive and well,” Hall said. 

APS runs on six-month semesters; this last semester at the Florida campus will begin the final week of January and end in the middle of July. “We’ll have our last set of face-to-face classes sometime in July,” he said.