Leeton residents looking to take on tertiary education without leaving the area will now be able to after the town's Country University Centre (CUC) was opened on Friday.
The Leeton branch of the Western Riverina CUC, which is located within the Leeton Library, was officially opened by Deputy Premier John Barilaro and will be one of two CUC branches in the MIA.
Mr Barilaro said the centre will have a "profound impact" on Leeton as it helps to ensure future generations will continue to grow and develop locally.
"It keeps our kids local," Mr Barilaro said.
"We know in regional and rural NSW kids travel for uni or tertiary education or anything to really grow themselves [and] we often lose them and they don't come back.
"If you want the regions to grow we need to keep our kids in them."
Leeton Shire council general manager Jackie Kruger, who is also a member of the Western Riverina CUC board, said the branch will serve two main purposes; helping to provide a feeling of support for students who may feel isolated studying by distance and helping provide Leeton with a larger field of knowledge for future generations.
"All the research shows that when people try to study remotely all by themselves, they often don't have the encouragement and the support that's needed to take things through," Mrs Kruger said.
"The CUC offers a hub where they can come together and get that university campus feel.
"We also have lower university education rates in our town compared to the NSW average and it's initiatives like this that's going afford us the opportunity to have people come out with degrees.
"Having people around that have those sort of university qualifications help to bring a level of technical expertise into the business environment which I think will stand us in good stead."
The Leeton branch will link with the Griffith branch in a hub-and-spoke approach, with the Griffith branch - which was also launched on Friday - being the central hub in the Western Riverina area.
The state government has invested $1.3 million in funding for the Leeton and Griffith branches as part of the initial wave of $8 million in funding for five centres across the state, with a further $8 million committed towards the construction of another five centres.
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