Enrollment grew at two of the three largest colleges or universities in Columbus this fall, due to increased visibility through marketing, partnerships and STEM initiatives.

Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus and Purdue Polytechnic Institute Columbus both have higher student counts this year, although IUPUC numbers are off — attributed to higher admission standards.

Purdue Polytechnic saw improvement across the board this semester. The smallest of the three colleges, its fall enrollment of 136 students was up 11.5 percent from last year’s count of 122. Its freshman class made even bigger gains, up 55 percent from the previous year.

A combination of factors made the difference, said Whitney Ramer, student services coordinator at Purdue Polytechnic.

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That includes marketing and branding efforts, partnerships, and new initiatives locally and across the state in science, technology, engineering and math, she said.

The college’s Computer Information Technology degree program is one of its glowing successes, Ramer said.

“As we do better at becoming visible in the community, students interested in this field are seeing the opportunity to earn that degree close to home,” Ramer said.

And while Purdue Polytechnic is still 31 students shy of meeting 2012 enrollment, its total number of credit hours is up significantly, she said.

Like a year ago, a growing number of its applicants are traditional, first-time college students taking a full credit course load, Ramer said.

Reversing course

Ivy Tech, which has the largest number of students among the three local colleges, is up 1.5 percent this year — from 2,915 students to 2,960 this year.That comes after three consecutive years of declining enrollment, which represents a start in the right direction, Ivy Tech — Columbus President Steven Combs said.

In a post-recession economy, “people are looking to reclassify, get new jobs, get new skills to go back to work,” Combs said.

Local outreach and partnerships with local school corporations and employers are two more big factors in the college’s enrollment growth, said Chris Schilling, director of marketing and recruitment at Ivy Tech-Columbus.

Two areas of focus in partnerships are health care and manufacturing, Schilling said.

Health care enrollment has stayed fairly stable, but enrollment in courses for manufacturing and related skills such as welding, is growing, he said.

The manufacturing field offers jobs that are high-paying and in high-demand, Schilling said.

To help both students and local employment partners, the college is offering more career development and student-geared pathways to introduce people to manufacturing careers.

For starters, Ivy Tech is working to emphasize career development opportunities with students by preparing to hire an adult recruiter.

That recruiter will go into businesses and industries to make their employees more aware of opportunities that are available in advanced training for people already in the workforce.

Additional training can result in a degree, and often higher pay without having to leave the organization, Combs said.

Affordability is another factor in Ivy Tech’s enrollment growth, Combs and Shilling said.

Ivy Tech touts that it has the lowest tuition in the state — and costs won’t go up for enrolled students, as long as they maintain six credit hours during fall and spring terms or at least three credit hours during summer term.

Additionally, to continue making a college education more affordable, Ivy Tech is working on a new curriculum, the Transfer General Education Curriculum (TGEC), to push high school dual-credit to the next level.

This program will allow high school students to take 30 college credit hours at Ivy Tech — for free — and earn a certificate. Students could then take that certificate to any four-year public school in the state and have their first year of college already knocked out, Combs and Schilling said.

Tougher standards

IUPUC is also keeping costs in mind by creating a new banded tuition system. The pricing approach encourages students to take more credit hours and graduate on time in four years, said Carol Branson, IUPUC spokeswoman.Under banded tuition, all students will pay the same amount of $4,077.55 per semester when they take 12 to 18 credit hours toward an on-campus IUPUC degree. In traditional tuition pricing, it’s set up on a per-credit-hour basis.

IUPUC attributes its decline in enrollment to higher admission standards which were set last summer, Branson said.

“It is not unusual to initially see a drop in enrollment numbers when the standard for admission is raised,” she said. “The purpose of the change is to attract students who are best prepared for success at IUPUC.”

But while IUPUC enrollment numbers fell, the university saw an increase in the average number of credit hours being taken per student this semester, proving the banded tuition is already working, Branson said.

In the past four years, IUPUC has seen a steady average of 10.5 credit hours per student, but it increased to 11.8 this fall. The university is also seeing some growth in degree programs such as business, mechanical engineering and nursing, among others.

This growth mimics Ivy Tech’s enrollment gains in health care and manufacturing.

Aurora Willman, a new IUPUC student studying business, said she made her university choice for its location, class sizes and engagement with students. Having taken dual-credit courses at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour, she was able to get enough credits to transfer out of some college classes and begin her education at IUPUC as a sophomore.

Even though all three colleges or universities are within a stone’s throw of each other, they view one another as partners instead of competitors, Combs said.

“Between all three institutions, we offer this comprehensive college opportunity,” he said.

Purdue Polytechtic Institute, Columbus

Purdue Polytechnic Institute Columbus

  • Where: Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence, 4444 Kelly St., Columbus
  • Phone: 812-348-2025
  • Degrees offered: Bachelors degrees (organizational leadership and supervision); bachelor of science degrees

Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus (part of Ivy Tech Community College Southeast)

  • Where: 4475 Central Ave., Columbus
  • Phone: 812-372-9925
  • Degrees offered: Certifications, associate of science, applied science, general studies, fine arts degrees

IUPUC

Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC)

  • Where: 4601 Central Ave., Columbus
  • Phone: 812-348-7390
  • Degrees offered: Certifications, associate of science degrees, bachelor of arts, science degrees, master’s degrees
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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5645.