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Chinese college officials like Ogdensburg site

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OGDENSBURG — Officials from a Chinese university will decide in a month if the college will open its first U.S. branch campus at the former Academy at Ivy Ridge here.

But they sounded optimistic after touring the vacant former reform school in the town of Oswegatchie on Thursday morning.

“This is a really good place to run a school,” Qingdao University Vice President Wang Huanliang said through an interpreter.

Qingdao is considering a fall 2013 startup in collaboration with a proposed English as second language school run by businessman James Ma, who bought the property last year.

“I’m very much encouraged by this,” Mr. Ma said. “Qingdao University is a great university. We feel this is a great opportunity.”

That opportunity, as Mr. Huanliang sees it, is the creation of a “model” for U.S. and Chinese education and cultural cross-enlightenment. Mr. Ma can recruit students from native China and elsewhere in the world to come here and learn English.

Qingdao, on the other hand, can draw upon the vast pool of U.S. and Canadian high school students who have, Mr. Huanliang said, “a great desire to study the Chinese language and the Chinese culture.”

Mr. Ma said he is confident the affiliation with Qingdao will remove the obstacles that forced him last winter to shelve plans to open his school this fall. He was unable to obtain visas for his prospective students because federal immigration requirements call for a student body, faculty and curriculum to be in place before the school opens. Qingdao has a record of participating in international student exchange programs and can set up first, paving the way for Mr. Ma to follow.

Qingdao was founded in 1993 as a combination of other schools, the former Tsingtao University, Shandong Textile Engineering Institute, Qingdao Medical College and Qingdao Teachers’ College.

The university is located in Shandong Province, which is where Mr. Ma is from.

Mr. Ma paid $1,550,000 for the 238-acre property located at 5428 Route 37 last year. It has been vacant since Ivy Ridge closed in 2009.

Renovations will cost an estimated $2 million. Mr. Ma said roof work has already been done and that the plumbing will need to be overhauled.

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