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Bay State College quietly expands its reach

Posted by Roy Greene  December 9, 2010 09:00 AM

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(David L. Ryan/Globe file photo)

Bay State fashion instructor Roseanna Ansaldi (left) with Danielle Costabile last year. The college recently rented space on St. James St. to accommodate its fashion program.

The Back Bay is crawling with college students from Northeastern University, Boston University, Berklee College of Music, and other schools that have a strong, visible presence in the city.

But hidden among the neighborhood’s brownstones, is Bay State College, which has been growing rapidly with little notice.

Although it lacks fully containedcontiguous space, Bay State’s slogan declares “Boston is our campus.” The college has embarked on an expansion plan that has seen admissions jump by 65 percent over five years and degree offerings steadily rise. With more than 1,000 students, the college is trying to remain integrated into the neighborhood, while expanding its physical space to keep up with enrollment.

“While we recognize that we don’t have a traditional campus, the Back Bay is the destination of choice for students looking for a safe, urban campus environment,” said Chip Bergstrom, Bay State’s vice president.

Bay State arrived in the Back Bay in 1961, after 15 years as a school for students who wanted to pursue careers in the airline industry. In the 20 years since it became accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the school has expanded to offer degrees in 13 majors.

In 2004, it received approval to offer bachelor’s degrees in business, fashion, and entertainment management. The college most recently launched a bachelor of nursing program and a degree program in criminal justice.

Annual tuition and board costs about $32,000.

With the expanded offerings has come a need for more space, Bergstrom said. In September 2010, the school rented an additional 10,000 square feet on the second floor of 31 St. James St. to accommodate its nursing, fashion, and early childhood education programs. The third and fourth floors of 437 Boylston St. house the entertainment management program, including The Spot, a student-run entertainment venue.

The rest of the “campus” is spread among two buildings on Commonwealth Avenue, with four residence halls, housing 180 to 190 students each, tucked nearby in original Victorian townhouses and brownstones.

The lack of a formal campus has pros and cons, students and administrators say. About 82 percent of students commute from surrounding Boston neighborhoods, while the rest live in the Back Bay.

Student Danielle Ambrose says the lack of a traditional campus, coupled with the school’s small size, means doing without traditional college extracurricular activities, such as football games or other weekend or evening social gatherings.

“It’s boring -- not much to do on the weekends -- but I love Back Bay,” Ambrose said. “It feels like home.”

Another student, Liza Campiglio, said that the Bay State’s sprawling urban campus is a perfect fit for her.

“The [down side] is that we are so spread out, but we are in the best part of the city. So you almost forget that you don’t have a campus,” she said.

Despite its proximity to pubs and bars, Bay State is a dry campus, meaning alcohol is not allowed in dorms, even if the student is 21. Tobacco also is banned.

Neighbors near Bay State say that they have had no problems with students, and some are not even sure where the school is.

Michelle Brokaw, director of residence life for Bay State, said the school is quick to respond to any complaints it might receive from neighbors.

“With any college located in a residential setting, we do get some concerns,” she said. “If our neighbors call, we work with each one to address their concerns.”

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Kelsey Crouse, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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