The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:37 am

IPFW's new direction

Vicky L. Carwein

Every two years, the General Assembly establishes the state’s biennial budget, allocating money for government, social services, education and more. This was one of those budget years, but for IPFW, it was a year like no other, for this year will be remembered as the one our future began.

Thanks to the vision and unity of our region’s legislators and robust support from area businesses and the community, IPFW received major boosts in this year’s session, including a new designation as the state’s first and only multisystem metropolitan university; an increase of $2.7â million added to our annual base allocation; and $10â million for capital improvements. These successes make a fitting capstone as we close the book on our first 50 years and begin the next chapter in our region’s future.

For IPFW, arguably the biggest news from the session was the change of the university’s designation. In late January, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, on behalf of the Purdue Board of Trustees, sent a letter to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, requesting a designation change for IPFW. Leaders at both IPFW and Purdue worked closely with legislators to see that request become reality, giving us the opportunity to redirect the narrative and our focus from one of continued expansion to one of improved quality.

This new designation officially recognizes that IPFW is no longer the campus of 50â years ago or even 10 years ago. We are no longer one of eight regional campuses designed to serve small areas and funnel students away to the flagship campuses. Instead, IPFW is now Indiana’s fifth-largest four-year public institution – located in the state’s second-largest city – and a comprehensive university offering more than 200 degree programs. We serve thousands of students, families and businesses from northeast Indiana, neighboring states and around the world. Our 55,000+ alumni have an effect locally, throughout the state, across the United States and around the world.

Only IUPUI has a similar metropolitan university designation. But IPFW’s "multisystem" designation is unique because our students pursue an almost-equal number of Purdue and IU degrees each year compared to IUPUI, where by far the majority of degrees awarded are IU degrees. This difference clearly defines us as a university that works equally within both systems, truly giving our students the best of both.

The new designation also removes the restrictions upon regional campuses that limited our growth for many years. As a multisystem metropolitan university, we have significantly more flexibility to create new degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels, which opens up new opportunities to meet the needs of our region. Not only will we have more control over the types of programs we offer, but we can more closely work with business and industry throughout northeast Indiana to design and launch new programs in a more timely way, supplying the region with the knowledgeable workforce it needs to continue growing.

Now that we are a multisystem metropolitan university, there will no longer be a cap on the number of residential housing beds made available to our students, and the Commission for Higher Education will new develop funding metrics that more closely reflect the uniqueness of our student body and our mission in northeast Indiana.

The legislature directed our parent schools, Indiana and Purdue, to work together this year to establish a clear path for our future growth. Among the questions they will consider are how we should be governed during this new stage of life and how to support and expand our connections with the community. The results will be submitted to the General Assembly in December.

The changes and opportunities as a result of this year’s legislative session point to a very exciting future for IPFW, for our region, and for the students, community members and partners we serve. As we turn our gaze toward our next 50 years, we see tremendous possibilities ahead. To the students, staff, faculty, legislators and all our community supporters who made the last 50 years possible, and to those who will keep us moving forward for the next 50 years, I offer my sincerest thanks. Without you, our hopes and dreams for the future would not be realized. 

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