Why Webster U joined fray for grad students

The college courts bay area professionals with nine-week semesters.

By PAUL SWIDER, Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG- Webster University opened a St. Petersburg campus this year. To understand why this St. Louis-based school would jump into such a busy market, the director of the campus, Brad Moser, answered some questions:

Why here?

I've wanted to open a St. Pete campus for several years now and we've been searching for a location. We got approval from the university in 2004. We're at 11201 Corporate Circle N, in the Blue Heron Corporate Tower in Gateway.

Why that location?

Corporate professionals are our target market, so we wanted to be in the neighborhood of all the major corporations.

How will you compete with all the other schools in the area?

The question is, "What's the best fit for the student?" We plan our schedules around student needs, with classes on weeknights, weekends, alternating days, online and hybrids of all that.

Don't all such professional schools adapt like that?

Sure, but many other universities still have 16-week semesters. We have five balanced nine-week semesters each year and you can start in any one of them. But we do in nine weeks what others do in 16.

What programs do you offer?

A master of business administration; master of arts in counseling, human resources management, and management and leadership; and master of science in finance.

How much do your courses and programs cost?

We charge $435 per credit hour, which is usually about $1,300 per class. We try to keep our rates competitive, but we know we're never going to compete with state rates. But for some programs, like an executive MBA, they can cost upward of $25,000, while ours is only $15,000.

How many students do you have and how many do you project?

We started out this summer with just about 50 students but we're around 100 now. We have physical space for 400 to 500. Most of our extended campuses have only a couple hundred students, but some, like Orlando, have several thousand. We expect St. Pete to have several thousand.

How many campuses do you have?

Worldwide we have about 100 campuses, including 11 in Florida.

How many students do you havetotal?

We have about 25,000 students total. About 6,000 are at our main St. Louis campus. Some campuses only have a handful.

Do you offer undergraduate and graduate classes everywhere?

Actually, just a few campuses outside of St. Louis offer undergraduate classes. We've really found our specialty niche in working with graduate students.

How did a small school from the Midwest get into this business of interstate and overseas education?

Back in the late '60s, the military said they were having trouble getting their people to the schools, so they wanted the schools to come to them. The other schools all said no, but we said, "Why not?" Soon, we opened it up to military bases around the nation and later to metropolitan areas. .

Growing a campus like this, how do you hire teachers?

We generally hire a lot of adjunct faculty. We love to find people with academic qualifications but also who are actively working in their field, someone who comes to campus directly from the office. That way we know we're not teaching the students theory only. It's real-world experience.