Young students will always want to leave Nelson or Marlborough for bigger city universities, but the tide may be slowly turning towards home town options, according to Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).
More students are turning their back on big campus life for more personal – and cheaper – tertiary studies closer to home, says NMIT’s Director of Marketing and International Development, Virginia Watson.
"Instead of graduating with a basic degree and a $60,000 student loan, students can see they can get the same or better locally and end up with virtually no debt".
Twenty one year-old Laura Duquemin from Nelson has left Otago University where she was studying for a teaching degree to do a Bachelor of Commerce at NMIT.
"I came back because I felt that university wasn't for me. It was really big and overwhelming. There were such big classes and you felt like you were on your own, just a number.
"NMIT is a lot smaller and your tutors take the time to work with you. Also it's definitely better being home and having your friends and family around".
Abbey Paterson was at Canterbury University before the earthquakes and, afterwards, decided to switch to a commerce degree at NMIT, moving to Nelson to join her dad.
"Coming to NMIT showed me there was a better way to study. It's quite a different feel when tutors actually know my name", says the 24 year-old who was put off by lecture halls with a hundred or more students.
Now in the second year of her degree, Abbey is also immersed in student life as vice president of SANITI, the student union.
NMIT's Director of Marketing and International Development Virginia Watson says the examples of students like Laura and Abbey are good news for regional centres which lose many of their young people.
With a "So Glad I Did" theme, the institute is celebrating cases of students who have graduated at NMIT and are doing well in their careers.
Virginia Watson says the campaign includes advertising on the backs of buses, but much of it is being delivered online.
A recent NMIT survey shows that well over half of new students get their information online. "It's a growing trend so we need to reach our students in the same modern way".
Potential new students are being reached through social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where they can find video links to NMIT programmes.
Virginia Watson says online study is also an increasingly popular way for students to do a diploma or degree. "We're making a lot more of our programmes a blend of some online study and some on campus. It's what students are asking for - a more flexible way to study".