It started nearly 40 years ago with classes in an old elementary school. Today there are 1,950 students. In the future, there could be 6,000.
Kansas University's Edwards Campus in Overland Park is in a continual state of development as it grows to meet the needs of the changing community around it.
"There's been considerable expansion already," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "What we're looking to is where we go from here."
Administrators are floating a $55 million plan to expand the campus with a new library, more classrooms, faculty offices, research space and a school of applied science and technology. They want a 2-mill property tax increase to do it.
Bob Clark, the campus' vice chancellor, said the university needs a way to raise funds for the project.
"We've pretty much exhausted the revenue stream that exists," he said.
Clark wants the campus to fill in the gaps and give the community comprehensive offerings, from beginnings at Johnson County Community College to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs at KU's Edwards Campus.
"Thirty-five years from now, my hope is this campus is going to be able to balance out the higher education infrastructure that this county needs," Clark said.
The program started 37 years ago at the site of an old elementary school at 99th and Mission, Clark said. Its primary offerings were in education. The Edwards Campus on Quivira Road opened in 1992.
Clark said the Quivira site was picked because it was in a growing area. When Clark took the top seat at the campus in 1997, the campus offered 10 programs. Now it offers 27.
The campus is surrounded by KU graduates. Clark said 40,000 KU alumni live in Johnson County.
The campus' students are not traditional. About 90 percent work, and 76 percent work full-time. Half of enrolled students are married and one-third have children. The average age of an Edwards Campus student is 31.
In recent years, the school has added buildings and features that make it feel more like a traditional campus. In August 2004, the school opened Regnier Hall, a $17.8 million, 82,000-square-foot edifice that was the campus' second building.
Over the summer, the school opened Jayhawk Central, its first student union. Soon, the campus will get a bronze Jayhawk sculpture, the twin to "Jay" who perches in front of Strong Hall on KU's main campus.
"It's sending that message that this is the University of Kansas," Clark said.
Filling the gaps
The campus' biggest program is education, which includes 29 percent of enrolled students. Other large programs are social work, the college of liberal arts and sciences, business and engineering. But there are gaps, Clark said.
Johnson County Community College President Charles Carlsen has said some adults want to continue past JCCC, but they don't find the junior and senior level courses, so they drop out.
Clark said getting those junior and senior level courses is key. JCCC is growing. And many of its students don't go on to traditional four-year schools. Clark said he sees a need to expand offerings to meet the community's needs. Clark continues to plan for expansion of faculty, physical space, academic and cultural programs.
Some students are pleased with what they're getting now.
Nina Hicks, 22, graduated from the University of Southern California-Los Angeles. She's experienced undergraduate life. Now she likes how the Edwards Campus has convenient parking and late hours at the student union and computer lab.
"I just want convenience at this point as I pursue my professional degree," she said.