IPFW received final approval of its realignment Monday and can officially begin marketing itself as Purdue University Fort Wayne.
The approval by the Higher Learning Commission marks the official breakup of Indiana and Purdue universities, which have jointly operated IPFW for more than 50 years.
“The dedicated people across our campus, as well as our colleagues from the Indiana University and Purdue University Systems, have worked diligently to ensure a solid foundation for the future of both institutions in Fort Wayne,” Ron Elsenbaumer, IPFW chancellor said in a news release. “The continued collaboration between Indiana University Fort Wayne and Purdue University Fort Wayne is critical to the future success of both institutions. As we transition to being separate and independent – yet equally committed – partners, I encourage everyone to remember our number one priority – our students.”
The road to realignment began when the Indiana General Assembly directed the Legislative Services Agency to evaluate the role and governance of IPFW. The LSA findings, released in January 2016, recommended two independent schools. Many students and faculty fervently protested the change.
But after the LSA recommendations, IU and Purdue trustees approved an agreement in December 2016 that splits IPFW into two institutions beginning July 1. IU will have a lower profile and focus on health sciences. Purdue will handle all other academic programs.
With the Higher Learning Commission as the last hurdle, IPFW had asked for expedited approval as it begins recruiting students for the 2018-19 school year. The commission met Feb. 22, and IPFW was notified in a letter Monday of the board's realignment endorsement, according to Monday's news release.
The commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the north central U.S., which includes Indiana, according to its website.
The commission's decision did not come as a surprise. The campus was expecting the approval this week, said Jeffrey Malanson, IPFW Faculty Senate presiding officer. He noted that for more than a year any mention of Purdue Fort Wayne in IPFW news releases was accompanied by an asterisk that the name change was pending Higher Learning Commission approval.
“While this was the anticipated outcome, it is still great to be able to officially take the asterisk off of Purdue Fort Wayne and start moving forward with the last hurdle behind us,” Malanson said in an email.
Assuming a name change, IPFW has been involved in an ongoing rebranding effort. Last summer a market research company was hired to help in developing a core brand strategy. The first result of that effort was an announcement in November that Purdue University Fort Wayne school colors will be black and gold, a switch from IPFW's blue and white.
Though early in the process, the school so far has spent about $200,000 on initial market research and rebranding, IPFW spokeswoman Nicole Hahn said Monday in an email response.
After receiving the commission's approval, “we will accelerate our activities during the coming months as we update signage, redesign the web site, develop advertising, and identify other institutional needs that are critical to the realignment.”
Elsenbaumer, who began as IPFW chancellor in November, said students should be at the forefront as the campus moves into a new era.
“The continued collaboration between Indiana University Fort Wayne and Purdue University Fort Wayne is critical to the future success of both institutions,” he said. “As we transition to being separate and independent – yet equally committed – partners, we all agree our number one priority is educating and graduating our students. This is truly an exciting time to be part of an institution with so much promise and opportunity ahead.”