George Mason to open campus in South Korea

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s what George Mason University is doing.  The Fairfax-based university has announced plans to establish a campus in Incheon, South Korea, three years after closing its campus in the United Arab Emirates.

This time things are different. “We think we’ve got much clearer arrangements with the Koreans than we had with the UAE,” says Peter Stearns, Mason’s provost and executive vice president.

Stearns says the UAE experience taught Mason to be more conservative with enrollment growth estimates (over three years, the UAE campus attracted just under 200 students). Funding support for at least five years is also important, says Stearns, because “it takes that long to flush out an enrollment scheme.”

Stearns says that planning for the South Korean campus was paid for by a grant from South Korea. No state funds will be used for the project. Mason hopes to have about 80 students at the South Korean campus initially, expanding to 1,500 students in 10 years. Annual tuition would be $20,000.

The campus would be a part of the Songdo Global University Campus in the Incheon Free Economic Zone. The area is designed to attract not only foreign universities but foreign businesses.

GMU expects to open the South Korean campus in 2014 and offer about half a dozen degrees in social sciences and management.

Currently, Stony Brook University, a part of the State University of New York, is the only American university operating in Songdo. Stony Brook offers graduate programs there in engineering and technology & society.

The South Korean government hopes to have 10 foreign universities on the Songdo campus eventually, each offering its own programs. In addition to an academic building, Songdo Global University has recreational and dining facilities, a library and dorms.

In 2011, 70,000 South Koreans studied in the United States. Stearns says Mason’s Songdo campus will give South Korean parents a cheaper alternative to sending their children overseas for all four years of college.

South Korean students in the program will be able to study at GMU’s Fairfax campus their junior year, while American students will get to spend a semester or a year in Songdo.  “We think this will be a nice package for many Korean and East Asian families that gives them an option that they currently don’t have,” Stearns says.

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