GCC president: Copper Country presence is a benefit

HANCOCK – Gogebic Community College’s presence in the Copper Country has been beneficial to both, college president Jim Lorenson said at Wednesday’s Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance meeting.

Gogebic has had off-campus sites since the 1980s, when it started offering courses at several sites and partnered with local schools. In the 1990s, it entered the Copper Country with a storefront in Hancock.

In the early 2000s, the state legislature defined a “reasonable commute” for college as 100 miles or fewer. This led the college to consolidate its operations. The university partnered with Michigan Works and expanded its Copper Country office, moving into the office on Razorback Drive in the Huron Centre.

Off-campus students now account for 25 percent of Gogebic’s head count and 20 percent of its credit hours.

“It’s a significant part of our business,” Lorenson said.

Lorenson said the college works closely with both Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University to accommodate transfer students. Additionally, 46 percent of students who were concurrently enrolled at another college in the fall were at Michigan Tech or Finlandia.

“If we have students transferring to either institution and they let us know that, we virtually guarantee every credit they have will transfer,” he said.

The college is expanding its Copper Country presence even more, moving into a 12,000-square-foot space at the Copper Country Mall in the space formerly occupied by Foot Locker, Hallmark and Christopher & Banks (see related story).

Lorenson said the move will allow the university to offer more day classes, for which there has been an increased demand. The total number of off-campus students increased 63 percent from fall 2007 to fall 2012.

The Aspen Institute and U.S. Department of Education have ranked Gogebic in the top 10 percent of community colleges in the country two years in a row. It also retained more than 60 percent of its students from fall 2011 to fall 2012, well above the national average of 53 percent.