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Editorial

IPFW hearing brings welcome attention to regional campuses

Banks
Randolph
Kruse

IPFW officials didn’t win a hearty endorsement for more governance authority from a legislative study committee this week. But they can at least be satisfied with the attention they drew to the university and its important role in educating northeast Indiana residents.

In the end, IPFW succeeded in winning some policy changes from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, as well as a recommendation that the state’s funding formula be adjusted to reflect the unique character of regional campuses.

The latter is an important point.

By enrollment, IPFW is the state’s fifth-largest university, yet it ranks 13th in per-student state funding support.

The 23-member study committee grew from legislation sponsored this year by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, to increase IPFW’s authority in offering degree programs.

While the Fort Wayne campus offers programs from both Indiana and Purdue universities, its rules and funding are dictated by Purdue through a management agreement that expired in June but was extended a year.

Hours of testimony were pared to four recommendations on Wednesday. But only the funding-formula recommendation was approved. Separately, Commissioner Teresa Lubbers of the Commission for Higher Education outlined policy changes involving regional campuses made as a result of the review.

IPFW representatives failed to make their case for broader changes. A presentation on the proposed Doctor of Nursing Practice program, in fact, praised the collaboration between the flagship Purdue campus, IPFW and Purdue-Calumet in establishing the new doctoral program.

Committee members from other regional campuses commented on the positive working relationship with West Lafayette officials, including the input allowed in a new report on collaboration within the Purdue system, undertaken since Mitch Daniels took office as president of the university.

Kathleen Randolph, president and CEO of WorkOne Northeast, made the most forceful argument for more autonomy, noting that while she heard Purdue officials say that processes were in place to respond to workforce needs with new programs, in practice they don’t work. “While we have very good intentions, it would be good to put some teeth into these,” she told the committee.

Banks, who also challenged university officials, said he was disappointed that all four of the recommendations were not approved but pleased with the discussion overall.

“Northeast Indiana legislators agree we must do more to fight for more autonomy for IPFW and I’m sure we are just beginning to explore ways to do just that,” he said in an email Thursday. “The single recommendation made by the committee is however significant in recognizing that IPFW receives the short end of the stick in funding and changes need to be considered to account for the unique asset that is IPFW. That is a good starting point.”

A Lake County lawmaker once observed that power in Indiana is concentrated within the triangle that encompasses Indianapolis, West Lafayette and Bloomington. The regional campus meetings demonstrated that’s still the case, even if the proceedings served to remind the powerbrokers that northeast Indiana wants, needs and deserves more clout.

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