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“Some legislators didn’t knowwhat a
community college was,” Jones said. Purdue
and Indiana universities also took some
convincing, because, he explained, they
feared community colleges would cost them
students. Kevin Brinegar, executive director of
the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, believes
the state’s two largest universities effectively
“headed community colleges off at the pass”
about 40 years ago by establishing regional
campuses around the state and allowing them
to offer two-year associate’s degrees.
“Unfortunately the regional campuses have
evolved in the direction of trying to be main
campuses,” Brinegar said. “They wanted to
offer bachelor’s degrees, graduate programs.”
Meanwhile, he added, their associate’s
degrees were failing to focus on the workplace
skills Chamber of Commerce members
wanted in their employees. Besides, added
Jones, “Their tuition was twice as much as it
would be for a community college, so they
weren’t affordable for typical community
college students.”
Kenley says he and other legislators simply had no idea
howmany students community colleges would attract. In 2000
the legislature took a tentative first step toward the semblance
of a statewide community college systemwhen it forced a
cooperative arrangement between Ivy Tech and Vincennes
University, a public, two-year liberal arts school with a single
campus in a remote corner of the state. Vincennes was to
provide the liberal arts, Ivy Tech the technical side of a typical
community college curriculum.
Jones promoted the idea, with support from then-
Governor Frank O’Bannon and leaders of both legislative
houses. But the plan was ill-conceived. At
Vincennes, enrollment was falling and faculty
members were being laid off. There was no
chance that the small school could provide
liberal arts instruction all over the state.
But the arrangedmarriage went ahead,
leading to what one Ivy Tech faculty member
called five “dark years,” marked by spats over
funding, faculty assignments and logistics.
Finally, last year the legislature granted the
reluctant spouses a divorce and gave Ivy Tech
the community college name and the green
light to go it alone.
Jones is philosophical about that failed first
try. Fromhis perspective it was better to forge
ahead, even against the odds, than to wait
until all the wrinkles were ironed out. “We
could have spent 25 years of planning and not gotten where we
wanted to go,” he said.
The “new Ivy Tech” has been on such an enrollment roll
that it has paced the state’s gains in college students. In 2000,
the Commission for Higher Education decided to aim for
a total of 30,000 more students in Indiana’s public colleges
and universities by 2009. After only four years the state was
almost 90 percent of the way toward that goal, with Ivy Tech
accounting for the bulk of the increase.
The growth has come from students across the age
spectrum. Toward the upper end are those like Steve Ballard,
50, and a career changer. Mindful of the physical toll his work
as a builder and remodeler can take, he said, he just couldn’t
see himself doing it for the rest of his work life. Anxious to
“find something else before it’s too late,” he enrolled in the
college’s popular hospitality administration program and is
learning to be a baker and pastry chef.
Over the last decade, however, the average age of Ivy Tech
students has declined to 25 from 31, as more people like Caitlin
Ward, now 21 and expecting her associate’s degree inMay,
have enrolled. Like her two older brothers, she went straight to
Ivy Tech fromhigh school. “It was the only affordable way for
all of us to be in college at the same time,” she said.
Jones reads Ivy Tech’s changing demographics as a gain in
“kids who wouldn’t have gone to college until they were older.
We’re getting them younger, which is muchmore effective.”
But he is still not satisfied that the state is getting enough of
them. “We still believe there are huge numbers of adults and
young people who could go to college that are not,” he said,
putting the number at 20,000 to 30,000 more who could be
enrolled in the next ten years.
u
Susan C. Thomson is a former higher education reporter at the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
.
Unlike states that
pour much of their
financial aid into
merit scholarships,
Indiana spends
about 90 percent
of its resources on
need-based help.
Students Amanda Nester, Michelle Engel and Jessica Reed (left to right) work
in the laboratory kitchen that is part of the Culinary Arts program at Ivy Tech
Community College’s Indianapolis campus.