By Tian Chen
If Tucson resident Charles Brown wants to suggest that friends and relations attend his alma mater, Trine University, it used to be they’d have to travel nearly 2,000 miles to Angola, Ind.
Now all they need to do is come to Peoria, where Brown attended a news conference Wednesday announcing that the Christian university will open a campus early next year.
“We’ll definitely recommend our 14-year-old grandson to come here for school,” said Brown, who graduated from Trine University, then called Tri State University, in 1962.
The city of Peoria and Trine University announced that they have reached a development agreement in which the city will commit nearly $1 million to the university if it meets targets such as enrolling 199 students and receiving approval from state and national boards.
Trine University, which is known for its engineering programs, will offer full-time undergraduate and graduate degrees and classes for part-time students in engineering, business and computer science, said Earl Brooks, president of the university.
Bringing in Trine University will generate $12.5 million in total revenue for the city of Peoria, according to a study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
“We are ultimately going after business attraction for companies that are high-tech: environmental tech, biotechnology, bioscience and information technology,” said Scott Whyte, director of Peoria’s Economic Development Services. “All of those require a very skilled labor force, and that’s why we brought in Trine.”
Trine University will be the first college in Peoria, but it might not be alone for long. The city is negotiating with Huntington University of Huntington, Ind., and the College of St. Scholastica of Duluth, Minn., about opening branches here. The city could sign a development agreement with these two colleges as early as next April, Whyte said.
The three private universities, all nonprofit and religious, are expected to share a campus and some faculty after being in Peoria for five years, said Jeff Berggren, spokesman for Huntington University.
Currently, Trine University is enrolling students for online classes at the Peoria campus and will start hiring faculty in Arizona this November.
The nearly $1 million investment comes from the city’s sales tax fund, which is dedicated to economic development, Whyte said.
Peoria is pushing to attract high-tech companies as well, but the lack of a university producing engineers has been a hindrance, Mayor Bob Barrett said.
“The idea is to target at universities that offer selected programs that are in high demand, particularly science, technology, engineering and math,” Barrett said.