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Legislative panel pushes funding change for IPFW

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education and General Assembly should adjust the funding formula for IPFW, lawmakers recommended Wednesday.

This year, Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, filed a bill to give IPFW more graduate-degree programs and require Purdue to grant more autonomy to all regional campuses. The General Assembly chose instead to require a working group of legislators and educators to study regional-campus governance and focus specifically on IPFW for improvements.

The first meeting was Aug. 1 at IPFW and the second was Sept. 25 at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Legislators on the committee are Banks; Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis; Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville; Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne; and Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

During the third and final hearing Wednesday at IPFW's Walb Student Union, Banks proposed four recommendations based on the committee's findings.

Among the recommendations that didn't make the cut Wednesday was a suggestion to change IPFW's designation and therefore allow the university to offer more master's programs and doctorate degrees.

The first recommended that the Commission for Higher Education and the legislature adjust the current funding formula to reflect the unique qualities of regional college campuses like IPFW.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's something fundamentally flawed with the current funding formula when the fifth-largest campus in the state ranks (13th) in funding," Banks said.

The committee instead would like to see a funding formula that recognizes many of IPFW's students don't fit the mold of traditional college students because many have full-time jobs, families and other responsibilities.

According to IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein, 41 percent of the university's students are part time and might take longer than four years to graduate.

As a result, the school's persistent rate – which is tied to the funding formula – is much higher than the graduation rate, Carwein said in September.

A change to the funding formula would better reflect the student population and university demographics, she said.

The recommendation was approved 5-0.

Lawmakers voted 4-1 in favor of the three other recommendations, but each failed without a five-member approval.

Behning, the committees co-chairman, was not present at Wednesday's meeting.

Banks also proposed a recommendation that would create an alternative streamlined process for undergraduate and graduate programs at regional campuses.

Banks said the internal process that IPFW must endure to create a new program to adapt to the needs of the community is difficult and needs to be simplified.

"It's too darned difficult for them to do that," Banks said.

The recommendation failed 4-1 with Pierce voting against it.

Pierce said he would rather the process remain with faculty members.

"Now we're digging down into the internal processes of the various universities, and I've always thought we have to be very careful to kind of balance our legitimate interest in how our institutions function because we do pay a lot of the bills," he said. "On the other hand I've never thought it was particularly healthy for the legislature to get in there and start micromanaging."

The third recommendation would have suggested creating a special designation for IPFW, setting it apart it from other regional campuses.

Banks said many believe IPFW is unique among other regional campuses and are jealous of the flexibility that IUPUI enjoys.

Like IPFW, IUPUI offers degree programs from both IU and Purdue.

But unlike IPFW, the Indianapolis-based university is labeled a "metropolitan campus," allowing it to sustain graduate programs in medicine, dentistry and law, among others.

IPFW is labeled as a "regional campus" meaning it cannot create doctoral degrees and can offer only select master's programs.

"We continue to see over and over again conflict between this institution and the institution that governs it," Banks said, explaining how the label restricts IPFW's ability to grow and adapt to the needs of students.

The recommendation failed with a vote of 4-1.

Pierce voted against the measure, saying he didn't know what a new designation would mean for IPFW.

"No one knows, so this is just a proposal to consider it," Kruse said. "It may only be a recognition and that's all maybe they want is to be recognized."

The fourth recommendation would have suggested one university explore taking control of all regional campuses and Indiana University and Purdue University work together to create a governance system.

John Applegate, executive vice president for university academic affairs at Indiana University, said he strongly objected to the idea of one university taking control.

"The regional campuses are part of the fabric of Indiana University," Applegate said. "I think I would be overstating it only a little bit to say that you would really need to pry IU's regional campuses from IU's cold, dead fingers to get us to relinquish them because they are so integral to what we do and who Indiana University is."

That recommendation failed 4-1 with Pierce voting against it. The committee's final report must be submitted to the General Assembly by Nov. 30.