Ivy Tech's $83M wish list meets skeptical audience

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ivy Tech Community College says it needs $83 million more from the state so it can double its enrollment and graduation rates and help the state meet its own goal of increasing the number of Indiana residents with post-high-school credentials.

But state lawmakers aren't convinced that increasing the amount of money the community college system by that amount will pay off.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley told the Indianapolis Business Journal (http://bit.ly/1hBRFf5 ) he wants to increase Ivy Tech's funding so that the amount it receives per student matches what it once was. Funding per full-time equivalent fell after Ivy Tech's enrollment surged during the recession even as state education funding was cut.

But Kenley said he isn't certain Ivy Tech should start increasing its enrollment again before it figures out how to get more of its students to graduate.

"Ivy Tech, as they have grown, they need to show their ability to perform at this level, before we just push more kids in," said Kenley, R-Noblesville.

Only 28 of every 100 students Ivy Tech enrolls earn a degree or transfer to a four-year school.

Ivy Tech's leaders say the system can improve its graduation rates and help the state achieve a goal of having 60 percent of all residents with post-high-school education by 2025. But it needs additional state support to do so.

"We think it's a good return on investment," said Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder.

The college system has the state's broadest network of campuses and is already set up to serve adult learners, who education leaders say will be a big part of improving the state's post-high-school education numbers. Currently, only 34 percent of Indiana residents ages 25 to 64 have such credentials. That's below the national average of 39 percent, according to the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education.

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Terp said Ivy Tech plans to ramp up several successful experimental programs it has had under way in recent years.

Two recently launched programs have already achieved a graduation rate of more than 70 percent.

The ASAP program allows recent high school graduates to earn a two-year degree in just one year by attending school seven hours a day, all with the same teachers and in the same hallway of Ivy Tech's buildings.

Ivy Tech also has mixed introductory classes with remediation work so traditional students who enter college behind can catch up while still earning credit toward a degree.

Ivy Tech has reorganized itself into four major units so that students pick one of those schools to enter. That means most courses count toward a range of degrees.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, said boosting both enrollment and graduation numbers at Ivy Tech is critical.

"I agree that we need more students to enroll and complete at Ivy Tech," Lubbers said. "But it can't be enrollment only. We have to move those numbers for completion."


Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com

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