Ivy Tech seeks funds for upgrades

An appropriation request that would provide $16.9 million to renovate the Ivy Tech Community College campus in Columbus will be considered by the Indiana General Assembly.

The proposal isn’t as ambitious as one submitted in 2013, however, when Ivy Tech sought $25 million to expand and renovate the state-run campus at 4475 Central Ave on the north side of Columbus.

At that time, the school was seeking to add 70,000 square feet to the 100,000 square feet of space already on campus, but funding for the Columbus project was not approved by lawmakers during the 2013 budget session.

The current proposal does not call for additional square footage nor the creation of new vocational programs, said Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing and recruitment at Ivy Tech Community College Columbus/Southeast.

Instead, the focus will be on expanding current courses to enable the campus to continue effectively serving as a workforce-alignment engine, Ivy Tech Interim Chancellor Katie Mote said.

“Ivy Tech partners with regional employers to ensure that the workforce is well trained and prepared to meet their needs,” Mote said.

Plans call for improving the functional operation of the existing building to add instructional space, Ivy Tech Columbus Campus President Steven Combs said.

The project in Columbus is ranked third on the statewide college’s priority list of capital project requests, ranking just behind improvements proposed at Ivy Tech campuses in Kokomo and Muncie, Mote said.

Ivy Tech Columbus currently consists of two buildings at the Columbus Municipal Airpark complex: Poling Hall and the Agricultural Science and Industrial Technology Center.

The 80,400-square-foot Poling Hall is used for classes in nursing, dental assisting and visual communications, for example. It also houses the campus bookstore, Express Enrollment Center, and faculty and staff offices.

If approved during the 2017 General Assembly budget session, the $16.9 million project would allow all of Poling Hall to be renovated, including replacing the 35-year-old building’s original roof and mechanical systems, according to the college.

Ivy Tech also shares facilities adjacent to Poling Hall at the Columbus Learning Center and the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, also located on the Airpark campus.

The college uses classrooms and the lecture facilities at the Learning Center, along with the Workforce Certification Center, library and some administrative offices.

The proposed renovations also would bring Poling Hall up to new standards adopted by Ivy Tech, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, the college said.

One of the main reasons Ivy Tech sought to expand its Columbus facility in 2013 was because it was spending about $226,000 annually to lease four buildings at the time. But none of those leases remain in effect today, due to either acquisition or consolidation, Combs said.

Ivy Tech has the largest number of students among the three largest colleges in Columbus, including IUPUC and Purdue Polytechnic. Ivy Tech Columbus fall enrollment was up 1.5 percent over the prior year, growing from 2,915 students in 2015 to 2,960 in 2016.

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

Former Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who became president of the statewide Ivy Tech Community College system in May, has already presented the initial capital project request to the Indiana Senate, said Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.

Several lawmakers have responded positively to the proposal, Walker said.

While the state senator cited strong leadership from Ellspermann as one key reason for such support, Walker said other concerns expressed by lawmakers in prior years have been addressed.

Factors now working in favor of the proposal, as outlined by Walker, include:

A recent upturn in the student population at the Columbus campus after three consecutive years of declining enrollment.

A recognized need among state lawmakers to maintain the core facilities as a necessary and popular campus.

Recent administrative changes by Ivy Tech designed to address the needs of students wanting degrees and those only seeking a vocational certification.

While ranked third in importance by the college, the proposal regarding the Columbus campus is still considered a high priority.

“I think they have a much better chance of obtaining funding than they have in the past,” Walker said. “I will absolutely support it.”

The proposal will eventually move from the Senate to the Indiana House of Representatives.

State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said he agrees with Walker in labeling the project as a high priority.

Especially with an emphasis on maintenance rather than expansion, Smith said the proposal “has a great chance to be funded.”

Ivy Tech snapshot

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
Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.