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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, October 01, 2017 1:00 am

Enrollment numbers belie IPFW's momentum

Vicky L. Carwein

The calculation and reporting of enrollment numbers is complex and sometimes confusing. Differing numbers have been reported for our fall 2017 census, and I want to clarify our status.

The tuition and fees paid by students are a significant part of our revenue and are dependent upon the number of credit hours for which students register. At final census this fall, we are down 6.9 percent in the number of credit hours from last year. This is not altogether surprising given national trends, particularly in the liberal arts, shifts in market demands, the uncertainties of realignment, and the negativity surrounding elimination of low-enrolled programs last year. More than 80 percent of this decline is accounted for by the College of Arts and Sciences, while other colleges experienced small to moderate declines. Programs such as mechanical engineering and polytechnic programs saw increases in enrollment, 5.1 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively. I am optimistic that ongoing and additional academic restructuring and significant changes being implemented in our recruiting and retention activities will result in a reversal of the enrollment decline next year.

Despite enrollment challenges, our students continue to be our focus. We strive to provide the programs they demand and the pathways that help them move successfully to graduation, then on to rewarding jobs and careers that allow them to achieve their goals. This focus leads me to share just a few of the many accomplishments that further set the stage for growth and development in the years ahead as the campus realigns to become Purdue Fort Wayne:

 • The approval of three new academic programs to better meet student demand and address regional needs: a bachelor of science in actuarial science that began this fall, and a bachelor of science in data science and applied statistics and bachelor of science in biochemistry that will be available for students beginning in the fall 2018 semester.

The addition of these programs reflects our ongoing commitment to aligning our programs with changing workforce needs – and, in turn, strengthens our position for future growth.

• The receipt of a $1 million grant from the English Bonter Mitchell Foundation and an additional $1 million legislative allocation toward creation of the Purdue University School of Music on our campus. Building on the existing outstanding talent of our music faculty, the School of Music is the first of its kind in the Purdue system and promises to be a significant point of pride and a signature for the university and the community as existing programs expand and new programs are added. A partnership with Sweetwater to offer a bachelor's degree in music technology will provide a unique educational opportunity unavailable in any other program in the country.

• Growth in programs critical to northeast Indiana's future, including civil and mechanical engineering (which saw a 5.1 percent increase) and polytechnic (e.g., mechanical and electrical engineering technology programs) (8.8 percent) this fall.

• The continued impact of scholarships, which benefit deserving students, many of whom otherwise would be unable to attend college. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, more than 1,800 scholarships were awarded, valued at $5.8 million.

• Our continued efforts to improve campus amenities while being fiscally responsible. Major capital projects such as the new Helmke Library, classroom refurbishments, and the opening of a new modular classroom building to house our growing communication sciences and disorders program improve the student experience and make us more competitive in attracting new students – and serve as excellent investments that will pay off well in the future.

I want again to welcome Purdue Fort Wayne's first chancellor, Ronald Elsenbaumer, currently interim provost and vice president for academic affairs and senior adviser to the president at the University of Texas, Arlington, who will join IPFW on Nov. 1. Elsenbaumer's distinguished career as a scholar and academic administrator, his experience in the private sector, and his work in entrepreneurship and economic development make him the right choice to lead Purdue Fort Wayne in envisioning a new future, connecting and leveraging the strengths of Purdue University and realizing the many opportunities that exist to build a truly distinguished institution.

The hard work of the past few years by so many committed individuals has positioned the campus for a bright and successful future. Much hard work remains, but an aggressive new vision of entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, real interdisciplinary programming and more will launch Purdue Fort Wayne toward a very prosperous future.

Vicky L. Carwein is chancellor of IPFW.