The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:39 pm

Statehouse key partner in IPFW's future

Vicky Carwein

This year’s legislative session is a very important one for IPFW. We are approaching the legislature with a detailed agenda that will provide us with the tools and support we need to serve our students, our city, and our region. The outcomes of the session will have far-reaching effects.

Our most important goals for this session are the increased base funding necessary to offer the programs needed in our region and create state of the art learning opportunities that educate our students for the future, along with both a new designation and revised set of performance metrics that reflect who we are and who we serve.

We are asking the legislature for a level of resources that matches the work we do. Over the past 10 years, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by IPFW increased by 60 percent while our state allocation has decreased. Like the region we serve, we understand the need to stretch our funds and tighten our belts. Even in the face of that, we still taught more students, offered more degree programs, awarded more degrees, and produced more educated citizens, the majority of whom remain in the region to work and live.

Northeastern Indiana business and industry needs leaders with a broad set of skills who can find and adapt to new opportunities. The base funding increase we are asking for will give us the resources to develop innovative programs that cross the boundaries between business, health and human services, engineering, computer science, education, and public policy. These degrees will create a non-traditional approach to learning and thinking that’s designed to incubate the talent our region needs.

The increase will also help us create degree programs in growing areas of the region such as actuarial science and applied statistics, along with new high-impact degrees in electrical and computer engineering, computer science, and information systems.

Since so much of the college experience takes place outside of the classroom, these funds will also help us create new student leadership and development opportunities, as well as expand and improve our informal campus learning spaces and computer labs. It will support our faculty and staff to continue improving our programs and provide our students with new educational experiences that will translate into new opportunities for our city, region, and state.

Our request also includes the funds to complete the major renovations of Kettler Hall and Helmke Library that were begun last year. These two buildings were the first on our campus. Although they stand proud in our 50th celebration year, they need the kind of rehabilitation and updates demanded by their years of service and the technological changes critical to preparing today’s students to work in businesses and industry of the future.

IPFW brings together the missions of two great schools, Purdue University and Indiana University, in a way that no other school in the state, indeed the nation, does. The degrees pursued by our students are split almost evenly, with 51 percent seeking Purdue degrees and 49 percent seeking IU degrees. Our degree-seekers include traditional students, part-time students, returning adults, parents, and grandparents. Many are the first in their families to go to college.

Although we are different from the seven traditional regional campuses in size, scope and by offering both IU and Purdue programs, we are measured by the same yardstick as those campuses. That is why we are asking the legislature to create a new designation for IPFW as a "Multi-system, Comprehensive University." This change of classification would recognize the unique status IPFW holds and more clearly defines our distinct mission, who we serve, and how we meet the region’s needs.

The "IPFW Roles and Governance" study, commissioned by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and released last year, made clear the importance and value of degrees from both institutions to our students, parents, community and alumni. Our students, faculty and staff have also consistently voiced their strong support for offering programs of both universities and the valuable roles these two powerhouse institutions play in meeting the higher education needs of northeast Indiana. That duality is a key part of who we are, what we provide to the region, and what makes us unique in higher education in the state and nation.

We will continue our longstanding advocacy in the legislature, with the Commission for Higher Education, and with our parent schools for a campus designation that recognizes our unique status as the only campus in the state and nation that equally offers degrees from two of our nation’s finest universities, for a substantive increase in our base funding that reflects the significant increase in bachelor’s degrees produced, for changes in performance funding metrics that more realistically reflect IPFW’s performance and mission, and for building collaborations that result in tangible academic and economic benefits for northeast Indiana.

Higher education is a complex business that builds and strengthens society at many levels. Our legislators have repeatedly shown their willingness to dig into challenging issues and work successfully to bring critically needed resources to IPFW. I thank all of them for their continued support. We look forward to working with our legislative team, friends and supporters on behalf of the region in the 2015 session.

Vicky Carwein is the chancellor of IPFW. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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