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Athens campus faces low numbers

Posted on 04.24.2013

UPDATE (April 26, 2013):

The University of Indianapolis will close the majority of its programs at the Athens campus. President Robert Manuel announced on April 24 in a campus-wide email that UIndy will not accept further applications for the Athens campus and that it will be discontinuing all undergraduate and most graduate courses on August 31. The Odyssey in Athens program will close following the upcoming summer session.

Although many programs will cease, UIndy is continuing the Master of Business Administration partnership program with the Saudi Arabian government. Manuel said that the MBA program will help stabilize the Athens situation.

Despite the cessation of Athens opportunities for UIndy students, Manuel said that there are still numerous ways that students can study abroad.

“These developments do not alter UIndy’s commitment to providing international experiences for students and faculty. We maintain strong partnerships with universities in China and Belize, as well as relationships with institutions in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere,” Manuel said. “We will continue to develop international alliances that support our mission and to place a high priority on study and research abroad.”


The University of  Indianapolis Athens branch campus has been experiencing financial solvency difficulties because of recent declines in enrollment. According to Director of Media Relations Scott Hall, UIndy’s top administrators and officials at the Athens campus have been discussing plans to address the issue.

“Over the last couple of months, the administration has decided it [Athens] requires a very serious look and a very serious analysis of the numbers to see what it takes to keep that campus viable and to continue operating it to the standards that we [at UIndy] offer and the standards that are required by our accrediting agency,” Hall said.

Hall said that if UIndy had to discontinue a program, the administration would have a responsibility to make sure that the affected students would complete their degrees at UIndy or another school. Hall also said that there were no concrete plans to phase out any program, because the administration is still considering a number of options.

According to the UIndy website, the Athens campus currently has a wide array of programs, including the Odyssey in Athens study abroad program for UIndy students, as well as 29 undergraduate and nine graduate programs in the arts and sciences and in business for Greeks and students from surrounding countries.

Despite the number of programs the Athens campus offers, not many students, American nor European, attend. In fact, according to data provided by UIndy Media Relations, Athens campus enrollment has declined 38 percent in the last five years. Hall said that the disparity between enrollment and programs has been a major cause of the financial issues.

“What we’ve seen is a decline in enrollment over the past couple of years. We have lots of programs . . . that just aren’t paying for themselves,” Hall said. “You just can’t offer a full schedule of courses for a particular major if you only have a handful of students in that major.”

While the undergraduate programs have declined, the graduate programs at Athens have grown 200 percent, according to media relations data. Hall said that one main factor is that students have been drawn to Athens by the MBA partnership with the Saudi Arabian government. Hall said that the program is something that provides a certainty for the Athens campus and that UIndy  is looking into pursuing more partnerships in the future.

“Instead of offering a program for anyone who wants to enroll, we have an arrangement with students from Saudi Arabia that we know we can count on a certain number of students for that program,” Hall said. “That program is financially viable. We are interested in exploring more programs like that. Maybe there are other foreign governments or other groups that we can contract with.”

The Athens enrollment numbers have dropped in the last year largely because of the plummeting Greek economy.

According to data provided by media relations, only 217 undergraduate students attended programs at the Athens campus in 2011, and the numbers dropped to 168 in 2012. Hall said that this drop is due, in part, to poor economic conditions in Greece.

“The big, dark cloud that hangs over everything is the state of the Greek economy. The fact students are having trouble affording their classes, they may not see the benefit of getting a job as unemployment is so bad. We need to give them a reason to go to college,” Hall said.

Associate Professor of History and Political Science Jyotika Saksena said that the Greek government has responded to the economic crisis by cutting social spending, including cuts to financial aid, student loans and grants.

Saksena said that the education system is different in Greece and in Europe in general, with more aid coming from the government and more freedom to attend college in another Eurozone country.

Saksena said that some UIndy students may fear studying in Greece because of the rioting in protest of social cuts and the austerity measures that the Greek government has put in place.

“Our enrollment [at Athens] has declined because of the riots that took place last year,” Saksena said. “I know specifically that one of our graduate students was all ready to go and decided not to go because of the uncertainty of the situation.”

The current situation at the Athens campus for UIndy students,  although not violent, is equally uncertain. Hall said that most students will not be affected by any pending plans in Athens, but some will.

“Right now there are no plans that would have a specific impact on students in Indianapolis. Unless they had specific plans that would have involved the Athens campus,” Hall said. “For the vast majority of UIndy students, there will be no effect.”

Junior communication major Michele Bates is currently the only UIndy student studying in Athens. Bates said that her experience at UIndy Athens has been more safe than many would expect and that she has had many opportunities to explore Europe, visiting France, Germany and some of the Greek Islands.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to study in Athens because they believe that Greece is dangerous.  However, after living in Athens for over two months, I have never felt unsafe here. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly,”  Bates said. “In addition, I enjoy all of the opportunities that this program offers. We have been able to take some incredible trips around Greece, and our professors encourage us to take advantage of travel opportunities.”

Bates said that she would recommend that other students take advantage of the Odyssey in Athens and that her experience should be available for future students.  She said that administrators should take into account the impact that studying abroad in Athens can have on students’  lives before deciding.

“I would like to have the opportunity to meet with administrators and share my experiences,” Bates said. “Athens has had such a lasting impact on my life, and I hope that my opinion would make them reconsider.”


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