Growing downtown higher education may add Florida International University law unit
By Meena Rupani
Students are flocking downtown to receive a higher education and are capitalizing on what the area has to offer.
With Florida International University, Miami-Dade College and the Miami International University of Art and Design all in the area, downtown is slowly becoming an educational hub.
FIU is looking to expand its footprint in the area, said Luis Casas, director of marketing, communications and recruiting for the College of Business.
"The university is currently conducting a study in order to see how much space there is downtown," he said. "The law school may be expanding there next."
The FIU downtown center was created in 2005 specifically for working professionals seeking an MBA.
"FIU realized about six or seven years ago that our main campus is too far west for the average working professional," Mr. Casas said. "Because of the dynamics of the downtown area and the convenient location, we did some research and saw that the downtown area would serve our students better."
FIU partnered with Macy's, and currently the downtown center is on the sixth floor of the Flagler Street department store where Macy's used to train its employees.
"We built out a nice case room for the students and a student lounge where their meals are provided and included in their tuition," Mr. Casas said.
Enrollment for 2009-2010 was close to 200 and this fall the school will start its healthcare MBA program at the Downtown Center.
The school also offers a master's in science and real estate and a master's in finance.
"The MBA program costs $42,000 because it is our longest program, ranging from 18 to 20 months, but books, meals, parking and other fees are all included in the cost," Mr. Casas said. "The master's programs are much cheaper because they are both 12 months and cost around $25,000."
"The classes are convenient for the working professional. Classes during the week begin at 5:30."
The healthcare MBA program will offer classes on Saturdays only.
"We started out with 25 to 30 students downtown and this fall we will have 250 students. We have come a long way," Mr. Casas said. "And we hope to utilize what leftover space the area has to offer to expand our university."
At the Miami International University of Art and Design, 1501 Biscayne Blvd., "students look out the window and find inspiration from the downtown atmosphere," said Marcia Gomez, director of communications.
The university was created in 1965 and was originally based in the Miami Women's Club. The campus was moved to its new home about six years ago, Ms. Gomez said.
"Because of our location we are able to partner with the organizations around us like the county's transit department, and the Miami-Dade school board is right by us if we ever need anything," she said.
"The views from the school of the water are used in the artwork the students create. Their dorms are in the middle of downtown and transportation there is great," Ms. Gomez said.
"It is an amazing urban environment; we wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Coral Gables and South Beach are all accessible and fairly near."
The university has 2,180 students for the upcoming year and is getting ready to collaborate with Duke University on a special exhibit.
At the Miami-Dade Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., students use the history of downtown in their everyday curriculum, said Mercy Quiroga, campus president.
In 2009-2010, the Wolfson Campus had 23,000 students.
"Dr. Paul George, a history professor, takes the students to the various museums in the area. And the art majors often visit the museums as well," Ms. Quiroga said.
In the vicinity, the students have the likes of the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach.
Although tuition increased 8% in the past year, Ms. Quiroga says, "we offer a wide range of courses for the students and we hope despite the increase they will continue to come here."
Tuition fees in 2009-2010 were $86.19 per credit. For 2010-2011 it's $94.90 per credit, Ms. Quiroga said.
"All of the historical sites are fairly accessible to the students; they don't need to learn from books on a daily basis when they can learn from the area," Ms. Quiroga said.
"Universities here love it because we are located in the heart of Miami."