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Ivy Tech may cap enrollment for fall

Swelling enrollment may force community college to turn away students

By Andy Graham
331-4215 |

May 8, 2009

Ivy Tech Community College is considering capping enrollment statewide for the 2009-10 academic year.

“I think it’s a fair statement for us to make that it’s likely we may have to turn students away next year,” Ivy Tech-Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart said Thursday afternoon. “We may have no other choice. We simply may not have enough seats available.”

Provost Don Doucette cited several factors that might compel the college to change its approach to enrollment for next fall in memorandums sent to Ivy Tech’s 14 chancellors statewide and in a Thursday interview. They included:

Uncertainty in the wake of the Legislature’s failure to pass a budget during the regular session, with a special session expected in mid June.

State funding levels that have failed to keep pace with Ivy Tech’s burgeoning enrollment percentages in recent years.

The fiscal inability to hire more full-time faculty and to guarantee adequate numbers of full-time adjunct faculty in some disciplines.

The lack of adequate funding for expansion of its physical plants.

The likelihood of even more rapidly increasing applications for enrollment, given that people often search for additional education during a recessionary economy.

Doucette and Whikehart will lead a study committee to formulate contingency plans. It is to report recommendations to Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder by June 1, in advance of the Ivy Tech trustees meeting July 10-11 in Richmond.

Whikehart’s campus has experienced tremendous growth since his arrival in 2001. Bloomington’s enrollment has gone from around 2,600 to 5,700 in the interim, an increase of almost 120 percent. Whikehart said the amount of state funding over that span has increased by about 47 percent.

Doucette noted that Bloomington’s numbers weren’t too far out of step with overall state aggregates regarding either enrollment or funding. Statewide, Ivy Tech serves more than 120,000 students at 23 campuses and 100 learning centers providing a variety of educational resources, associate degrees, transfer credits, work force training and professional certifications.

“We’re now the community college of Indiana and our mandate is open enrollment and open access,” Whikehart said. “It amounts to an unfunded mandate, or underfunded. At Bloomington and our other campuses, we no longer can afford to open section after section of courses, trying to meet the needs of additional students, on a flat budget.

“Now what we’re up against is that, with our open enrollment process, we have students now registering for the fall semester and we can’t wait until the (legislative special) session ends to at least have a contingency plan. The reasons are obvious. We currently are operating with a budget that had been reduced mid-year. And there are concerns about the budget forecast. What if we end up with a flat budget or even a reduction from last year’s?”

Whikehart said the state budget proposal that failed to pass the Indiana House might have prevented immediate need for contingency planning. Among other things, it would have allowed the Bloomington campus to expand its facilities.

Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s main campus is a 140,000-square-foot building at 200 Daniels Way off West Ind. 48. The college has leased space at 1907 Liberty Drive to provide more classrooms, and the new Indiana Center for the Life Sciences at the corner of Zenith Drive and Profile Parkway is helping to ease crowding.

But in hopes of keeping its ever-increasing enrollment more centrally located, administrators have envisioned an 80,000-square-foot addition to the main building. Plans for such an expansion are on hold.

State Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, anticipated this situation last September when she told The Herald-Times she feared that if state money isn’t appropriated for expansion, Ivy Tech might have to cap enrollment. “That goes completely in the opposite direction from where the administration and the community want us to go,” she said then.