Before it opened a bucolic Bristol campus in 1969, Roger Williams University was a city school with roots in Providence dating back to 1919.
Those roots are being strengthened as Roger Williams looks to double the size of its Providence branch to expand its adult education and key graduate-school offerings.
This summer, a group of university officials is expected to lease new office and classroom space from one of five downtown buildings with vacancies.
The move will again grow the higher education presence in Providence, something that’s become even more pronounced in recent years as demand for space from corporate tenants has wavered.
And for Roger Williams, expanding its Providence footprint is part of a broader growth strategy focused on graduate and continuing studies.
“The growth area in higher education is not the 18-year-old residential freshman – that is a declining demographic,” said Roger Williams University President Donald J. Farish. “But we do see a lot of unmet needs on the part of the adult population, people who want to finish an undergraduate degree, get a certificate in something like cyber security, or get a master’s.”
With more space downtown, the university will be able to grow continuing education and, by offering more experience-based learning, enrollment at the law school and likely in other graduate fields.
Roger Williams’ Masters of Public Administration program and the MBA program currently in development could also take advantage of the larger downtown space.
“In the old days you could be a lawyer from sitting in a classroom and then figure it out at the first years at a firm,” Farish said. “Today with the competitive job market, the edge goes to the lawyer who arrived knowing how to be a lawyer.”
Farish said Roger Williams didn’t have any projections on how much the law school or any of the programs being discussed for Providence might grow yet.