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Growing knowledge: Ivy Tech counting on $25 million expansion


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The number of graduates from Ivy Tech Community College’s Columbus campus would quadruple in the next 12 years under a state plan to help meet workforce demands of tomorrow.

But college officials said meeting those demands could require help from the state Legislature, which is considering as part of its annual budget a $25 million grant to expand and renovate the state-run campus at 4475 Central Ave.

“The project is well timed, because the need for more graduates is so great right now,” said John Hogan, 10-year chancellor for the Columbus/Franklin region.

“It’s hard to meet your growth goals when you don’t have enough physical space.”

Expansion plan

Here’s the breakdown for the proposed $25 million expansion of the Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin campus:

  • $20 million would go toward constructing a 70,000-square-foot building south of Poling Hall, the main building on campus
  • $5 million would go toward renovating Poling Hall to better suit students’ needs and to upgrade outdated mechanical, heating and air conditioning systems

This would be the first campus expansion since Poling Hall was built in 1983. Ivy Tech officials are holding off on floor plans until the state legislature approves the plan.

Source: Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing and commun-ications for local Ivy Tech campus.

Space or not, the local region — which takes in all or parts of Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings and Johnson counties — has found ways to accommodate its students as one of the fastest-growing Ivy Tech districts in the state.

It’s done that by expanding into leased properties beyond its campus borders.

Those properties include one on Middle Road for an agricultural program and one on Washington Street for a business program, among others.

The state’s $25 million infusion would eliminate the need for those leases by renovating Ivy Tech’s Poling Hall main building with new heating, cooling and electrical systems and creating a new building to the south that would add 70,000 square feet to the 100,000 square feet currently on campus.

The local Ivy Tech leases a total of 29,300 square feet among four buildings citywide. That means the net increase in building space would be about 40,700 square feet.

Construction could start in as little as a year, with completion as early as 2015.

Hogan said that would put the local region on good footing to meet state-identified goals under the Accelerating Greatness 2025 plan for all Ivy Tech regions statewide.

Ivy Tech is observing its 50th anniversary this year — its actual birthday was Friday — as Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college, according to the college’s central office in Indianapolis.

The Accelerating Greatness 2025 plan is intended to help the college maintain that status while growing in ways that ensure an ample number of trained workers are available to fill jobs in high-skill businesses.

It focuses on four strategies to get there:

  • Help the student body grow and succeed by creating new academic programs and methods of delivery.
  • Ensure a stable financial base by continuing to tap corporate and private donors and by continuing to apply for grants.
  • Improve efficiency and effectiveness of operations. For example, Ivy Tech consolidated its purchases of paper and toner cartridges statewide to a single vendor, saving money.
  • Make sure college resources continue to grow with students’ needs. That includes the construction of a new building and adding faculty and staff when appropriate.

The State Board of Trustees is looking for the Accelerating Greatness 2025 plan to help increase the number of U.S. working adults holding an associate’s degree or higher from 40 percent currently to 60 percent by 2025. It also set a bold goal of increasing the number of Ivy Tech graduates from about 15,500 to about 50,000 annually.

For the Columbus/Franklin campus, it means more than quadrupling the number of graduates, from about 500 a year now to about 1,000 in 2015 and 2,425 by 2025, Hogan said.

The new building construction would help meet that goal, said Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing and communications for the Ivy Tech Columbus/Franklin region. Nevertheless, he said the goal remains whether the new construction happens or whether it has to wait indefinitely.

“About 70 percent of our effort is going into the strategy to help students succeed,” Hogan said. “We need to listen to our students and businesses to decide how to get there.”

Affordability edge

Hogan said Ivy Tech will have to ride its affordability advantage well into the future for the local region to maintain momentum that saw enrollment more than double during a recent five-year span, from 4,369 during the 2006-07 school year to 10,073 in the 2010-11 school year.

Ivy Tech’s State Board of Trustees probably will decide in late spring whether and by how much to increase tuition, Proffitt said. Regardless, he said Ivy Tech will remain by far the most affordable higher-education option in the state.

In-state tuition at Ivy Tech for a full-time student is $3,334. That compares to $10,034 at the Indiana University — Bloomington campus and $9,900 at Purdue University in West Lafayette.

New Purdue President Mitch Daniels, the two-term Indiana governor, understands the need to keep tuition within financial reach of students. Two weeks ago, the university said it would freeze tuition and most fees at current levels for the next two years for students at the West Lafayette campus. The last time Purdue went without an annual tuition increase was 1976.

And last fall, IU President Michael McRobbie announced that Bloomington-based students in good academic standing as sophomores and on track to graduate in four years would not have their tuition increase as juniors or seniors — starting with the 2013 fall semester.

One strategy to grow local Ivy Tech enrollment is a cooperative effort with the local Community Education Coalition and Columbus-based Cummins Inc. The partnership’s new iGrad program uses coaches, mentors and tutors to help at-risk students in Bartholomew County graduate from high school.

By boosting the number of potential students coming into college, the Community Education Coalition hopes that program can help double the county’s percentage of adults who have two- or four-year degrees, from 30 percent to 60 percent, by 2015.

Other pieces of the student growth and success strategy have yet to begin.

According to Hogan:

  • An accelerated degree program probably will begin in the fall that allows students to complete an associate’s degree in one year instead of two. The option would require students to agree not to hold jobs outside school and for their parents to continue supporting them during that schooling. Details of the program are still coming together, but it is likely students also would have to maintain a certain grade-point average.
  • More and stronger connections with schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade also are likely. Those might include increasing dual-credit offerings, in which high school students simultaneously earn high school credits and college credits for approved courses.

Those kinds of offerings would give eager students a way to finish their schooling quickly so they can begin their careers.

Campus expansion

Hogan said the campus expansion needs to gain state approval in this legislative session or the next one for Ivy Tech to meet its goals. He said he expects a decision in April.

“The money we’re spending to lease buildings is money we could be using to add faculty and degree programs,” he said. “To more than quadruple our graduate rates, we have to put some financial investment into that.”

Ivy Tech pays about $226,000 a year for its four leased buildings.

On-campus dormitories owned by Ivy Tech are not likely to be part of the college’s near-term growth strategy, because demand hasn’t reached the level yet to make dorms economically feasible, said Roger Bingham, the Columbus/Franklin region’s vice chancellor of academic affairs.

However, private developers have expressed interest in building dormitory-style housing within blocks of IUPUC, Ivy Tech, Harrison College and Purdue College of Technology. If the required approvals happen early enough, college and city officials hope ground could be broken by August so the housing could be available for the 2014 school year.

Logan Bartell, 26, of Edinburgh, said he hopes student housing in northern Columbus will happen.

Bartell will graduate in the spring from Ivy Tech with an associate’s degree in criminal justice and wants to transfer to IUPUC for a bachelor’s degree. Without a driver’s license or a car, he would have to find a way to get to Columbus each day from Edinburgh to attend classes at IUPUC, which is next to Ivy Tech.

Curriculum’s role

Some of Ivy Tech’s enrollment growth would come from expansion of the curriculum.

The local Ivy Tech region is looking to add a fall semester aviation class in Columbus that would train students to become certified pilots, for example, said Steven Combs, vice chancellor of academic affairs.

The college would work with the Columbus Municipal Airport Aviation Board and airport director Brian Payne to make that happen. The local Ivy Tech campus is on the airport campus.

Other components of the growth strategy include the school’s method of teaching.

Combs said project-based learning, a hands-on approach to education, is almost certain to come about at Ivy Tech in the future. He said the traditional lectures-and-labs system that classes use would evolve to being more project-centered, where students work together to accomplish goals.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is implementing that concept at an increasing number of its schools, and Combs said that would create more healthy continuity between the public school system and higher education at Ivy Tech.

He also expects to see additional improvement in transferability of credits earned at Ivy Tech to four-year colleges, furthering the incentive for students to start their college careers at Ivy Tech.

Columbus resident Michael Sweet, 21, president of the local Ivy Tech region’s Student Government Association, said he will save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of his accumulated credits that already can transfer to four-year colleges.

He will graduate in May from Ivy Tech, then transfer to IUPUC for a bachelor’s of business degree. He hopes that will help him eventually land a job in theme-park management.

“I’ve seen so many changes over the 20 years I’ve been here,” Combs said. “We’ve always adapted to change and gotten better.”

Hogan said Ivy Tech’s plan going forward really is quite simple.

“We have to grow. We need to grow,” he said. “And I think we will grow.”

Online courses

Online courses should continue to make up about 30 percent of the total course offerings at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin, according to Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing and communications.

That percentage has held steady since at least fall 2008.

Here’s how the student body breaks down locally:

Campus instruction only

Spring 2011: 47 percent

Fall 2011: 50 percent

Spring 2012: 50 percent

Fall 2012: 50 percent

Mix of campus and online instruction

Spring 2011: 17 percent

Fall 2011: 18 percent

Spring 2012: 19 percent

Fall 2012: 19 percent

Online instruction only

Spring 2011: 36 percent

Fall 2011: 32 percent

Spring 2012: 32 percent

Fall 2012: 32 percent

Source: Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin

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