Budget woes at Ivy Tech Community College threaten to close as many as a quarter of its sites, with about eight sites in northeast Indiana under scrutiny. As Ivy Tech trustees consider options, they should remember campus accessibility is the key for many students.
In Ivy Tech’s 2011-12 financial report, President Tom Snyder described the statewide college system’s financial position as strong and noted an 11 percent increase in state appropriations. In fact, state support for Ivy Tech has increased by 50 percent since 2005, but the college is facing a $68 million deficit, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Snyder points to inadequate per-student funding. Enrollment skyrocketed during the Great Recession, with Ivy Tech adding faculty, staff and facilities to meet the demand.
Ivy Tech has done some administrative consolidation and will do a cost-benefit analysis of about 50 of its 72 sites this summer. In addition to 31 campuses across Indiana, Ivy Tech leases space at about 40 other sites, mostly in small communities. In northeast Indiana that includes community campuses in Garrett, Ashley, Kendallville, Angola and other sites, where mostly introductory courses are offered.
Ivy Tech is rightly viewed as a key to Indiana’s workforce development, as well as one solution to the state’s lackluster performance in producing residents with college degrees. As college officials look to cut costs with the least disruption to those goals, however, the temptation will be to target resources to the main campus sites in larger cities, to the detriment of small communities.
It’s important that Indianapolis-based administrators understand the value of community-based programs in helping more Hoosiers access higher education and job training. While it might be more efficient to serve northeast Indiana residents at the Fort Wayne campus, closing community campuses will inevitably close the college door for some. The introductory courses in small communities aren’t just convenient – they often allow students to overcome the fear of tackling college on a much larger campus in an unfamiliar city.
Ivy Tech’s rapid growth has included a growing – and costly – administrative structure. Ivy Tech invested $50 million to renovate the 100-year-old St. Vincent Hospital on Fall Creek Parkway in Indianapolis and almost $23 million for the Stouffer Hotel on North Meridian Street, where its Corporate College and a culinary program are housed. Grants to the Ivy Tech Foundation support capital projects, but operating costs inevitably fall to students and taxpayers.
As officials look for savings, they must not forget students in the state’s smaller communities. Their modest classrooms might be in leased space, but they offer the same valuable returns as the lavish new space on Fall Creek Parkway.