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Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels speaks Monday at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

Daniels: IPFW best as Purdue site

Says he has open mind on autonomy

– Purdue President Mitch Daniels says the future of IPFW is bright – and is probably brightest if it remains a regional campus in the Purdue University system.

Daniels, visiting IPFW on Monday to meet with community leaders, told The Journal Gazette he has an open mind on whether IPFW needs more autonomy but recognizes that the campus’s biggest strength is its ability to give a diploma that says “Purdue University” or “Indiana University,” something it would lose if it were to break away. Currently, Purdue runs the joint Indiana-Purdue campus in Fort Wayne.

“I don’t have a hard, thick view of this,” Daniels said. “I’m for what the community decides is best for it, and I’m respectful of what the Commission on Higher Education thinks the role of regional campuses should be.”

In 2012, before Daniels became president, Purdue’s Board of Trustees enforced the university’s policy requiring administrators in high policy-making positions to retire at the end of the fiscal year they turn 65. Seven times before, the university had granted exceptions; popular Chancellor Michael Wartell’s retirement was the first time it was enforced.

Shortly after, area legislators started pushing for more autonomy for the campus, a move that has continued, with some saying Purdue exerts too much control from West Lafayette.

But Daniels said regardless of the overarching concerns, the entire Purdue system could work better. He said faculty has not worked well together across campuses, something he’s trying to change.

“There are regional meetings between faculty that didn’t used to happen,” he said. “And we’re trying to address little, nagging problems that have existed.

“I don’t think they were big problems, but they were irritations and they connotated a lack of respect that was never intended.”

Daniels said the regional campuses are important not just to the Purdue system, but also because of the role they play in higher education for the entire state.

“I tell people, if you have questions, go to a regional commencement,” he said. “You get everything – there’s students who could never afford it if they couldn’t stay home and attend, nontraditional students – it’s just a whole spectrum.”

One opportunity to fight declining enrollment – IPFW’s dropped about 4.5 percent – is to meet the needs of those who began a degree but never completed it, he said.

“In any given year, there’s 60,000 or 70,000 high school graduates, but there’s 10 times that many adults who started a bachelor’s degree and didn’t finish,” Daniels said. “We’ve got work to do in this state just to get the number of bachelor’s degrees up.”