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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Students Tim Wilson and Eva Chen chat Monday on IPFW’s campus. Area legislators want to give the regional campus more autonomy.
general assembly

Proposed bill would give IPFW more freedoms

– Northeast Indiana legislators are pushing a bill that would give regional campuses like IPFW more autonomy without breaking away from the state’s two flagship universities.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, filed Senate Bill 98, which will receive a hearing in the coming weeks. It is the result of a summer study committee on the topic of IPFW’s governance.

IPFW is among the largest public universities in the state, with an enrollment this year of nearly 14,000 students.

Purdue University currently provides administrative oversight of the regional IPFW campus, with students able to obtain degrees from both Indiana and Purdue depending on the program.

Depending on how the definition is interpreted, the bill could apply to as many as 11 regional campuses in the state. Ivy Tech is not considered a regional campus.

Banks said the prevailing opinion is that creating a separate Fort Wayne university goes too far. But he said there are ways to ensure that IPFW can grow and benefit northeast Indiana more directly.

“I’m still open to it, but I’m hopeful that a few of these small steps can benefit IPFW and elevate the regional campus approach,” he said. “They need more autonomy to control their own destiny.”

IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein said Purdue has had a task force diligently working on a new system plan involving all regional campuses since the fall.

“My hope is the bill won’t be necessary,” she said. “We are in the process of sincerely trying to address the issues raised.”

The proposed legislation would make several governance changes. First, it would allow regional campuses to seek new degree programs directly from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education instead of going through their oversight university.

“I think what we’ve learned over time is there is an inherent conflict between the parent campus and the regional campus. They are still competing with each other for students and funding from state,” Banks said. “That works as a detriment to IPFW. The Commission can look out for the big picture – not what’s important for West Lafayette or Bloomington.”

The bill also would allow regional campus chancellors to interact directly with the school’s Board of Trustees instead of going through the president of the operating university.

Carwein said communication is a major issue.

“In terms of going directly to the board, no one can really represent us as well as we can represent ourselves,” she said. “It’s hard for someone else to really speak on our behalf unless you live on the campus or in these communities. That is important.”

Banks said he will start discussing the bill with legislators from other areas of the state that have regional campuses to build support for the effort.

nkelly@jg.net

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