BILOXI — Coast resident Ed Baker, who retired from the U.S. Navy before going to work for WLOX-TV, attended eight different colleges over the years he was in the service, including schools in Iceland and Japan.
Changing colleges so often made it difficult to finish up a degree. And being place-bound because of the job he has held at WLOX for the past 10 years made it difficult to finish a degree because of the lack of college programs in his field on the Coast.
Then, a year ago Tulane University opened a branch on the Gulf Coast.
“Until Tulane opened up on the Gulf Coast there were no AA or BA degrees in journalism available on the Gulf Coast,” said Baker, who recently became the first graduate of Tulane’s University College on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “You had to go to New Orleans, Hattiesburg or Mobile. With me working full time there was just no way I could do that. I was within 12 hours of completing the degree at the time. But there was no program available down here and I wasn’t willing to settle for a general degree.”
Baker wanted a degree in his career field. So he put off finishing his degree until Tulane University came to the Coast. Baker decided on Tulane even after finding out Tulane requires 30 resident hours with the university in order to graduate.
Baker recently received an AA degree in media arts, and is now working on finishing up his BA.
How does he like the Tulane experience? In comparison with other colleges he attended, the work is a lot harder.
“It is demanding,” said Baker, who is a commercial editor for WLOX. “But like I say, you get what you pay for. I’m glad I did it that way.
It is going to be a lot more impressive when I apply for a job if I decide to move on from here. It means a lot more to say I graduated from Tulane rather than from a local community college. Nothing is wrong with the community colleges, but Tulane is more prestigious.”
As Tulane University enters its second year offering courses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, enrollment has increased significantly, said Richard A. Marksbury, dean of the University College of Tulane University.
“We continue to be very pleased,” Marksbury said. “Our figures for the fall aren’t totally in because students can still register. We are looking at about a 70% increase in enrollment from last fall when we opened. I’m very pleased with that. Part of our challenge is to continue to get the word out about our offerings.”
One of the most popular courses offered thus far is an introduction to casino resort management. The class offered during the summer semester filled up within hours of being announced. Marksbury said not only people from the Gulf Coast, but people from the northern part of the state wanted to participate.
When Tulane originally announced its intention to offer courses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, plans by the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to offer four-year degrees on the Coast had been held up by legal challenges. The Supreme Court allowed the expansion, and residents of the Coast now can stay at home to get a four-year degree either from USM Gulf Coast or Tulane. William Carey College on the Coast also offers some four-year degree programs.
Tulane recently signed an articulation agreement with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Tulane will accept MGCCC students in certain programs as third year students at University College. Those programs include computing, media arts and social sciences.
“We are a small liberal arts school with an excellent program in computing and media arts, which includes journalism,” Marksbury said. “Both of those are strong programs. Down the line we are looking at bringing a master’s of liberal arts program out there. We hope to bring that to completion in the next 30 days.”
There are also plans to expand the casino management from a course to a program. Marksbury said they tested the market this summer, and it turned out to be very positive.
“If you have an industry on the Coast that employs 15,000, and people want to educate themselves to get into that business or move up the ladder, having courses in the industry could be very vital,” he said. “With education and training in that area, there will be a number of people on the Coast ready to move into the industry. The casino resorts won’t have to rely on bringing in people from outside, and local people will get better paying jobs.”
The casino resort management program planned would include topics such as management, marketing, food and beverage, human resources and other issues involved in managing the entire casino resort.
Tulane, a private institution, has consistently been named one of the top 50 universities in the country. Tulane University’s main campus is located in New Orleans. Their University College, geared toward student convenience, offers classes at five satellite locations including Biloxi. The charge per credit hour is $232 for the 2003-2004 academic year.
University College is on a spring/summer/fall trimester system with two 15-week long semesters and one 12-week long summer semester, as well as two six-week long summer semesters that run concurrently.
The University College branch in Biloxi is located at the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. This fall the college is offering approximately 50 courses in liberal arts and sciences, media arts, business studies, paralegal studies and organizational information technology.
Students may earn four-year degrees, two-year associate degrees and a variety of certificates in media arts, organizational information technology, and social studies. Certificates and an associate degree are also available in business studies.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.