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WCU moving Asheville programs to Biltmore Park

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3/12/2012 - WCU moving Asheville programs to Biltmore Park
by Julie Ball - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- Western Carolina University will move its Asheville-based programs, now scattered among various sites, to Biltmore Park this fall.

 The college is leasing 25,000 square feet of space on the third floor of a building on Schenck Parkway, according to Bill Studenc, WCU spokesman.

It will consolidate those WCU programs housed at UNC Asheville, on the Enka campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and other sites.

Programs offered in the new space will include the master's program in business administration, master's in accounting, several master's degrees in education, master's in social work and doctoral degrees in education leadership.

About 600 students are enrolled in more than 20 programs offered in the Asheville area.

"Space and access constraints have limited our capacity to meet the educational needs of the people of the greater Asheville area," WCU Chancellor David Belcher said in a news release. "The Biltmore Park site provides space for the growth of programs such as nurse anesthesia and the opportunity to offer classes during the day, at night and on weekends."

Roger Hartley, WCU associate professor and director of the school's master's of public affairs program, said the new location should increase WCU's visibility in the Asheville area. It may also help recruit students from high-growth areas of Henderson and Transylvania counties.

"Our partners at those other locations were wonderful," Hartley said. "But the big thing was a lot of people didn't know my program existed in Asheville."

Hartley's program is housed at UNC Asheville's Graduate Center. Hartley said space limitations prevented WCU from offering classes during the day. The move may also allow the school to offer new, noncompeting undergraduate programs, he said.

Belcher, UNCA Chancellor Anne Ponder and Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, have signed a memorandum of understanding, saying that "there will be no duplication of programs offered in the Asheville area by the two institutions," according to a WCU news release.

The average annual base rent for the Biltmore Park site is just under $477,600, according to WCU. But the university expects to save more than $74,500 in the first year by consolidating some operational and other expenses.

In 2010-11, the university spent nearly $460,700 for use of space at UNCA and A-B Tech.

The move by WCU will allow UNCA to look for new partnerships with other UNC schools, and it could mean UNCA offers some new graduate programs of its own.

"We did not jointly participate in offering those programs. We were really a host site. We received compensation for the use of space," said Edward Katz, associate provost and dean of university programs at UNCA. "What it really allows us to do is to really begin reexamining how we can do our part to address our evolving community needs for higher education in Western North Carolina."

The Asheville Graduate Center already hosts a couple of Appalachian State graduate programs.

The university is "actively pursuing affiliations with other UNC system institutions," Katz said.

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