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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Colene Smart, of Roanoke,  is a 2014 Ivy Tech grad. She enjoyed her classes there so much that she talked her brother into going there, too.  

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Ivy Tech Northeast graduate Colene Smart enjoyed her experience there.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette From left, Chris Cathcart, vice chancellor of student affairs, Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier and Barry Schrock, director of academic affairs, work to boost enrollment at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast.

Sunday, January 10, 2016 4:18 am

Ivy Tech aims at 'Big Goal'

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

Colene Smart looked at options during her senior year in high school to continue her education and settled pretty quickly on Ivy Tech Community College Northeast.

"I had gotten some emails from them seeing if I wanted to be there, and Ivy Tech definitely was very affordable," said Smart, 22, of Roanoke.

A 2015 graduate with an associate of applied science degree in design technology and a technical certificate in visual communications, she can’t say enough good things about her experience at the community college. She talked her brother, Caleb, 20, into enrolling there, too.

With Indiana community colleges and workforce ­training agen­cies under fire for lower-than-expected completion rates and dropping enrollments, Smart’s story is one to savor.

Ivy Tech Northeast Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier wants to boost enrollment and in early December issued an appeal asking all staff to help. The goal, which Mosier called "a stretch," is to boost enrollment 2 percent from what was expected to be 11,802 to 12,037 students by March.

Semester classes start Monday, but there are rolling admissions for eight, 12- and 16-week classes through March. 

The enrollment goal, which was 50 percent attained by early January, includes retaining continuing students, enrolling first- ;time students, new transfers, guest students and high school dual-credit students. 

Statewide enrollment for the Ivy Tech system of 32 cam­puses has dropped 25 percent since its peak in the fall of 2011 with 110,000 students. The enrollment drop coincided with the improving economy after the 2007-09 Great Recession. IPFW, another public institution, has seen enrollment slip as well.

Enrollment dropped at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast as students who enrolled to improve their chances in a faltering economy found jobs. Spring enrollment figures cratered in 2008 and 2009 but rose by nearly 4,000 students in the spring of 2011. The drop has been steady, but not plunging, since then.

Mosier said the enrollment rally is not in reaction to criticism from the State Workforce Innovation Council, which threatened in June to pull federal workforce training dollars out of workforce training entities, including Ivy Tech, if completion rates didn’t rise.

Instead, Ivy Tech Northeast is aligning itself with the "Big Goal".

"We are an active partner with the Big Goal," Mosier said, referring to an initiative by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. The initiative hopes to have 60 percent of the population in northeast Indiana holding post-secondary degrees, technical certificates or two- or four-year degrees by 2025. Currently, that percentage hovers around 38 percent. "Because we are an active partner, we want to engage all of our employees with the understanding that everyone can make a difference."

Raising the area’s level of education will attract new companies to the region, fill labor needs and help raise the regional per capita income. 

New initiatives at Ivy Tech Northeast include monthly Express Enrollment Days during which prospective students can enroll at Ivy Tech and access financial aid, if possible, all in one day. Go Ivy Days bring in high school students once a semester to get a taste of post-high school life. Another focus has been on Jobs for America’s Graduates, also a focus of Gov. Mike Pence, through which students receive career counseling in high school and then are encouraged through special campus days to consider taking courses at Ivy Tech and other higher institutions.

This year, the college hired Barry Schrock as executive director for K-12 engagement. His main goal is to bolster dual-credit pathways rather than "random acts of dual credit," so that students arrive at Ivy Tech with many college credits already on track to finish a certificate or degree.

Chris Cathcart, vice chancellor of student affairs, oversees "boot camps" run by campus ad­missions officers to enroll students in one session.

The college is also part of a 2014 mentoring program developed through the Indiana Commission on Higher Education so that students, often first-generation college students, "get over that hump and persist over that first semester or first year," said Teresa Lubbers, a commissioner.

Ivy Tech grad Smart said she has benefited.

"Even outside of school, I could get some help in these things," she said. "They helped me find jobs, and I even got published in a magazine." 

Like many Ivy Tech students, Smart works in addition to taking classes. It often makes it difficult to stay in school, especially for breadwinners, who may get some training, get a better job and postpone more schooling, Mosier said.

Ivy Tech statewide has seen 6.4 percent of full-time students earn a degree in two years, 20.3 percent in three years and 42 percent in six years or transfer – comparable data sets to Ivy Tech Northeast, said Andrew Welch, Ivy Tech spokesman. In a five-year period ending in 2012, graduation rates went up 2 percent, one of the higher increases statewide.

The State Workforce Innovation Council had instituted thresholds for graduation rates that have not been met. Out of the $58 million in federal workforce aid divvied up among all institutions, only $6 million goes to statewide Ivy Tech, aiding 4,500 students at its 32 campuses. Students using Department of Workforce Development dollars in fall 2014 amounted to 87; last spring, it was 158 students.

Joe Frank, Indiana DWD spokesman, said SWIC voted to change its metrics at its November meeting to include "good labor outcomes," not just graduation rates.

Caryl Auslander, a new SWIC member, is vice president for education and workforce development policy at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Auslander said she is "confident that Ivy Tech’s leaders are going to increase efforts to up the graduation rates" and that "Ivy Tech is an important institution to the state of Indiana."

"We are certainly interested in accountability," Mosier said.