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Quality remains focus as IPFW trims budget

A recent article and editorial highlighted the financial challenges facing IPFW. Those challenges come from four sources.

Declining enrollments have resulted in a $4.2 million decline in tuition revenue. Changes to a state funding formula may mean a loss of an additional $1 million. We are experiencing an unavoidable increase of $2 million in operations costs for things such as utilities and health insurance. Finally, for many years our actual enrollments exceeded our estimated enrollments. That produced a budget surplus that was used to cover expenses and help keep tuition down. Unfortunately, this year we will have to cut another $1 million because there will not be a budget surplus available. All of this means IPFW has to reduce its expenses by more than $8 million.

Our approach to making the necessary changes is premised on four important principles. First, we must remain committed to preserving accessibility to quality academic programs and services. Second, we must assure that our students have the opportunities and support they need to pursue their dreams and goals through obtaining a college degree. Third, every effort must be made to minimize the negative effect of any changes on our staff and faculty. Finally, everything we do must support our mission of serving northeast Indiana.

With these principles in mind, we have already taken steps to operate more efficiently. Numerous staff and faculty positions that have come open through retirements and resignations over the past year have been eliminated. Improved operating efficiencies have allowed us to lessen the increases we have seen in utility costs. We have reduced custodial service levels, and travel and entertainment expenses are being scrutinized. There is much more to be done, but our work is well under way.

We are grateful to our students, who continue to see in us a university that is focused on their success. The ways in which IPFW promotes student success include strong academic programs across a variety of disciplines, assistance in identifying and exploring career opportunities, study-abroad and exchange opportunities, and leadership development programs.

We recognize the financial sacrifices our students and their families make in order to attend IPFW. We take seriously our obligation to keep the cost of their education within reason while at the same time keeping the quality of their student experience high.

IPFW is pleased to have an active and supportive legislative delegation that understands and values the role of IPFW in the region. Their continued efforts to address several funding issues are important to our future success. IPFW is currently 13th of 15 in state funding for higher education when ranked on a per-resident student basis. Moving into the top third of institutions would result in about $21 million of additional funding. Simply moving into the top half could realize nearly $10 million.

Also, recent changes in the formula used to calculate state funding ignore or minimize IPFW’s strength in serving first-generation learners (60 percent of our students), transfer students (40 percent of our enrollment), and students enrolled in STEM disciplines. We also need assistance in securing appropriate financial support for the burgeoning dual enrollment of high school students in our credit-bearing courses (currently 3,000 students). As noted in The Journal Gazette’s Jan. 25 editorial, we only receive $25 per credit hour to support this dual enrollment.

As northeast Indiana’s public university and the fifth-largest institution in the state public higher education system, IPFW is fortunate to have strong support from a wide variety of constituents. People can rest assured that we are well on our way to finalizing a plan to address the fiscal shortfall in a way that will preserve what is most important about our university. We will continue to offer quality programs and services that respond to the needs of the region. That is our mission, and we remain deeply committed to it.

Vicky Carwein is chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.