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Although IPFW has the fifth-largest student population among state-supported, four-year universities, it ranks 13th of 14 in the amount of funding it receives for each full-time equivalent student.

Regional Partnership raises red flag for IPFW

A local economic development group is exploring ways to increase IPFW’s independence and state funding.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership commissioned a study of regional campuses and independent public universities inside and outside the state, officials announced Thursday.

At issue: Who controls the sites and how much state funding do they receive?

IPFW awards degrees from both Indiana and Purdue universities, but Purdue’s administration governs the campus.

A movement to grant IPFW more autonomy began at least two years ago. Local university officials have expressed a desire to retain the cache of the Indiana and Purdue brands while having more local decision-making ability.

Former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell spoke to state legislators about the issue in September 2012. Although he was head of the local campus, Wartell wasn’t allowed to speak directly to the Purdue Board of Trustees while he was in the office.

IPFW’s chancellor is required to take any concerns to Purdue’s president, who can choose whether to discuss the matters with the trustees, he said.

Money is another big issue.

Although IPFW has the fifth-largest student population among state-supported, four-year universities, it ranks 13th of 14 in the amount of funding it receives for each full-time equivalent student.

“We’re just saying, being at the bottom of the list isn’t where we should be on an on-going basis,” said John Sampson, the Regional Partnership’s president and CEO. “We’re raising a red flag.”

The study, to be performed by Indianapolis-based Policy Analytics in Indianapolis, will be paid for with private donations earmarked for that purpose, he said. Sampson estimated the cost at between $40,000 and $50,000.

Officials with the Regional Partnership say this is about more than just flexing IPFW’s muscles. They want the campus to be able to respond to the needs of the region’s employers – something that might not be possible when it’s controlled by officials based more than 100 miles away.

Sampson said IPFW, which reported 13,049 enrolled students as of Jan. 18, is vital to Fort Wayne and other northeast Indiana economies.

Economic development officials have rallied around an effort to reduce the gap between northeast Indiana’s average income and the national average. The region’s per capita income is 81 percent of the national average.

The best way to attack the disparity, officials agree, is to increase the number of northeast Indiana residents with advanced degrees and quality vocational training.

Allowing IPFW officials to launch programs that meet employers’ needs is critical to reaching that goal, Sampson said.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. also included a more independent status for IPFW among its legislative lobbying priorities this year.

The non-profit was created last year by the merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance. The organization bills itself as the “single point of contact for economic growth in Allen County.”

A bill giving IPFW more autonomy passed out of committee Wednesday and is headed to the full Indiana Senate. Senate Bill 265 doesn’t address funding issues.

Sampson was among those who testified Wednesday before the Senate’s Education and Career Development Committee.

For the bill to advance this year, it must pass the Senate by Tuesday’s third-reading deadline. Then it would move to the House for consideration.

sslater@jg.net

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