UMass Satellite Seen As Economic Engine For Springfield

Nov 27, 2013

The planned opening of a University of Massachusetts satellite campus in downtown Springfield next year is expected to provide an economic boost to the region’s largest city.  The UMass center is a key component of a downtown revitalization strategy, and the course offerings will be tailored to local workforce development needs


       Discussion about creating a “UMass-Springfield” had been around for decades, but the push to locate a branch of the state’s land grant university in the downtown of the state’s third-largest city really took off in the last five years.  The UMass satellite campus is one piece of an urban renewal plan that includes a recently renovated former federal building, a new transportation hub at Union Station, and perhaps a resort casino.

       Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer, says the presence of college-aged people will do a world of good for downtown Springfield.

       Governor Deval Patrick and UMass officials announced Tuesday that Tower Square will be the location for the satellite campus.  UMass will occupy space on the second floor of the 30-story office tower on Main Street, and also take a small space on the ground floor in a retail area of the building.

       Nick Fyntrilakis, who chairs Develop Springfield—a nonprofit business development organization—says he is thrilled that UMass is investing in downtown Springfield.

       UMass officials say it has not been determined how many staffers will work at the satellite campus, and they would not speculate about how many students might enroll for classes.  The satellite campus is expected to attract people like Yamaris Benjamin.  The community college student wants to get a four-year degree, but taking the necessary classes at the UMass flagship campus in Amherst—25 miles from Springfield—would be a hardship.  She has no car and needs to keep working at a part-time job in Springfield.

       Just 17 percent of Springfield residents have a bachelor’s degree compared with 38 percent of all Massachusetts residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  The UMass satellite campus should help close that gap, according to Henry Thomas, a Springfield native, and chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees.

       The satellite center is looking into offering courses in the growing field of cybersecurity, according to UMass President Robert Caret

       UMass Amherst will administer the satellite campus, but the course offerings will draw from all of the system’s campuses and UMass Online.