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Report: IPFW performance is ‘average’

Statement issued Thursday by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce:

Indiana’s public colleges and universities are performing relatively well given the resources available to them. There are significant variations in performance, however, among schools and every institution has room for improvement.

That’s the conclusion of a new report released today by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Crossing the Starting Line: An Examination of Productivity at Indiana’s Public Colleges and Universities chronicles how these schools stack up against their national peers when comparing performance in student retention, graduation, and degree and certificate completion relative to costs.

For Indiana University/Purdue University-Fort Wayne, here are the findings:

IPFW performed average* to its peer institutions when comparing student performance to funding received. However, several of its peer institutions are performing at higher levels with similar funding as IPFW. The institution also was average* in its performance relative to its expenditures in education and related areas.

(*Up to 10% above or below 100% was deemed average.)

IPFW ranked about average in its peer group (at 18.2%) in terms of degree and credential attainment for both full- and part-time students (termed undergraduate credentials). When looking at only full-time students at IPFW, the data shows that 24% are completing their coursework within 150% of the program time – aka six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for an associate degree. Additionally, the school’s first-year retention rate was just over 61%, which was second to last among its peer schools.

Refer to A-3 in the report appendix for exact cost and performance measures for IPFW.

In the current economic climate, productivity in higher education is more important than ever, and colleges and universities across the state must work toward increasing student performance while limiting spending and finding more efficient ways to manage resources.

“That is tough medicine for some in the education community to accept. But just as those in the private sector have been forced to do more with less, just to survive, so must our public institutions,” offers Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

“Fortunately, we already see evidence of Indiana institutions that are accepting this challenge seriously, and we have confidence that our higher education system, as a whole, will contribute significantly to the future of our state’s economy.”

The state’s commissioner for higher education, Teresa Lubbers, believes Indiana’s colleges are ready to step up to the plate.

“Our college and university leaders increasingly recognize that Indiana’s economic realities and workforce needs require new ways of thinking about how we measure performance and progress in higher education,” Lubbers says.

“The simple fact is that every two-year and four-year campus in our state can and must do better in terms of driving college completion, producing more high-quality degrees and increasing operating efficiency.”

Another of the report’s key findings centers on the high value and current low perception of associate degrees and undergraduate certificates. Wage data and anecdotal stories from a growing number of Chamber members further illustrate the high demand for these credentials.

The report notes that certificates and two-year credentials in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are particularly needed and are areas in which great opportunity exists for Hoosiers.

“There’s no way around it; high school graduates and dislocated workers must be prepared for post-secondary education – whether that’s an employer-recognized certification, associate degree or a bachelor’s degree,” Brinegar asserts.

“Currently, the low number of associate degrees and certificates in applied fields such as STEM and health is a real issue and, bluntly put, is a critical strain on our future economic prospects. There must be a coordinated effort to get more adults, in particular, to pursue this path.”

Crossing the Starting Line was prepared by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), under the direction of senior associate Patrick Kelly.

“Indiana is a leader among states in its devotion to addressing higher education productivity. More important than the current levels of productivity of Indiana’s public institutions is the emphasis on improvement,” Kelly notes.

“This report provides a conceptual and methodological framework for moving forward by establishing several key baseline measures – using the best data available – that can be tracked over time. Improved productivity is critical for Indiana to achieve its goals to develop a more educated and economically competitive workforce.”

The report was commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation and funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education. It is based on 2008 data drawn from the national Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System or IPEDS and is the latest available.

The Crossing the Starting Line report is available at www.achieveindiana.com, a new resource developed by the Indiana Chamber as part of its higher education productivity grant from the Lumina Foundation.

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