HAVERHILL — Katelynn Donnelly wasn't ready to return to school until she heard that UMass Lowell would be opening a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill.
"It was the push I needed," said Donnelly, 28, of Bradford, about her decision to enroll at the campus located in the new Harbor Place commercial building on Merrimack Street.
Donnelly earned an associates degree in criminal justice in 2013 from Northern Essex Community College and is now working toward her bachelor's.
"Night classes are ideal for me," said Donnelly, who is raising two girls and works full time in Northern Essex Community College's accounting and finance office. "And it's just five minutes away from my home."
UMass Lowell is the top choice for students transferring from Northern Essex Community College, with more than 17 percent of transfer students picking the college.
"It's really beautiful here as it's all up to date," Donnelly said. "If I want to arrive early, I can log onto my UMass blackboard account and get my assignments, use the computer for research or download any software I might need."
The first UMass Lowell satellite campus opened in Haverhill several weeks ago and about 75 students already are enrolled in night classes. Two classrooms along with a study area partially fill the second floor of Harbor Place. An additional two classrooms are planned and school officials say that in the future they expect to serve about 200 students.
The Haverhill campus offers bachelor's degree programs in business, criminal justice and psychology, but college officials anticipate the offerings will expand. Courses can be taken in Haverhill, or online, so that students can accelerate their programs if they wish.
"We're also in the process of offering an MBA program here, with a focus on entrepreneurship and management," said Steve Tello, senior associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and economic development.
Crystal Hodson, 34, of Reading, also is a single mom raising a child while working full time as a bank secrecy act analyst. She earned an associates degree at Middlesex Community College and is now enrolled in the criminal justice program at the UMass satellite campus working toward a bachelor's degree.
"Driving to the Lowell campus was about the same distance, but coming to Haverhill is a much easier commute," Hodson said. "I really like the new campus. They have a lot of technology, comfortable classrooms, and the parking is free and easy."
Steve Tello, senior associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and economic development for UMass Lowell, said students at the satellite campus have all of the privileges of those who attend classes at the UMass Lowell campus.
He said their identification badges are issued at the satellite campus.
"They have wireless connectivity to the university's network. They can take the MVRTA bus to and from Lowell for free, where they can use the library, the recreation center, attend UMass Lowell hockey games and more," Tello said.
The Haverhill satellite campus is part of UMass Lowell’s Division of Online and Continuing Education.
"The university has long been an economic engine throughout the state and this new facility capitalizes on that impact by bringing the educational resources of a national research university to the Haverhill community," said Catherine Kendrick, dean of the UMass Lowell Division of Online and Continuing Education.
The classrooms at Harbor Place have all of the technology a student would find on the university's Lowell campus, including large screen televisions connected to computers and a white wall you can write on. By folding the wall, the two classrooms become one large space.
"We also have more space we can use out back," Tello said about a currently unused section of the second floor.
The university leased spaces from the city at the Goeke Parking Deck on Merrimack Street, where students can park for free, Tello said.
The third floor of the Harbor Place commercial building has one classroom, but the bulk of the space will become an "innovation hub," or "iHub" that will be modeled after one that UMass opened in Lowell several years ago.
"We hope to recruit as many as 20 start-ups, which students can engage with for a very experiential learning experience," Tello said.