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To attend
SB 265 hearing, Education and Career Development Committee, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Senate chamber

IPFW push for autonomy gains steam


A second round of meetings focusing on IPFW’s relationship with Purdue University ended last fall with little more than a promise from the West Lafayette campus that it would try harder to be a good parent.

But area lawmakers have heard that promise before. They’ve filed legislation granting IPFW a status more comparable to IUPUI, the only other campus hosting both Purdue and Indiana University degree programs.

Their efforts deserve serious consideration.

Senate Bill 265, authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, would designate IPFW as a “metropolitan” campus, setting out requisite provisions for its governance agreement with Purdue. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, is a co-author and has scheduled it for a hearing Wednesday in the Education and Career Development Committee.

“It will strengthen IPFW, giving it more autonomy, more control over their destiny,” Banks said. “The path we’ve taken is a direct result of the summer study committee meetings. What came out was a very clear indication that IPFW is substantially different than every other regional campus.”

Among the Purdue-affiliated campuses, Fort Wayne is unique. Of the 2,048 degrees granted in the 2012-13 academic year, 808 were for Purdue degrees or certificates; 1,240 were for IU programs.

Enrollment at IPFW in the fall of 2012 topped 13,750. At Purdue-Calumet, the next largest campus, it was just more than 10,000.

Kruse said he was pleased that IPFW finally landed its first doctoral degree – a doctor of nursing practice program – but said that more is required to allow the Fort Wayne campus to respond to regional needs.

A companion House bill, HB 1247, also addresses the metropolitan campus designation for IPFW. Its co-authors are Reps. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne; and Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.

After meeting with Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, Kruse said he decided to drop SB 197, which would have required the state commission to work directly with regional campuses – not just the flagship IU and Purdue administration – in developing a new base higher education funding formula. He said IPFW could have made a strong case for more equitable per-student funding, but conceded that the bill would have placed additional work on the commission.

“We’ll battle that out in the next budget year,” he said.

The bills addressing IPFW specifically, however, are an encouraging sign that area lawmakers won’t settle for second-rate status.

They need the support, however, of northeast Indiana business, K-12 education and economic development leaders to make the case for greater IPFW autonomy.

The reluctance shown by Purdue to grant greater authority in establishing new degree programs is probably justified, but other changes that would come with a new metropolitan campus designation would undoubtedly improve efficiency and governance.

“I’m finished with study committees,” Banks said of the measure. “I’m ready to get something done.”