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Amanda J. Billings
Executive Director of Marketing and Communications
Phone: (812) 330-6222
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This Story is provided by The Herald Times

On caps and gowns (and caps) at Ivy Tech

May 13, 2009

The news this week at Ivy Tech Community College focuses on caps and gowns. Commencement is Friday on the Bloomington campus, and an estimated 477 people will earn associate degrees and technical and other certificates.

That’s news worthy of celebration.

The news last week at the college focused on caps. It was news worthy of great concern.

Ivy Tech officials said they may have to cap enrollment next year, thus shutting off to some Hoosiers a popular and important avenue for seeking higher education.

Several factors are at play. The General Assembly’s failure to pass a budget in its regular session leaves the college with no clear financial picture for next fall. State funding also has not been able to keep pace in capital outlay for facility expansion, hiring enough full-time faculty or providing enough financial support for huge enrollment increases in recent years, college officials say.

An enrollment cap would be a blow to the strategy state leaders have employed the last decade in encouraging more Hoosiers to begin their higher education career at Ivy Tech. It also would be a blow to those Hoosiers who want and need to improve skills to be more employable in the recessionary economy.

“We’re now the community college of Indiana, and our mandate is open enrollment and open access,” Ivy Tech Bloomington chancellor Whikehart noted to the H-T last week. “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.”

The Bloomington campus is bursting at its seams, and legislative inaction also has put a proposed expansion on hold.

While it’s clear economic conditions have led to tough choices for everyone, including legislators responsible for wisely spending taxpayers’ money, it should be equally clear that education and training are keys to building a brighter future, individually and collectively.

An enrollment cap at Ivy Tech would take those keys away from a great many Hoosiers who want to keep moving forward. Legislators must place that thought high on their agenda as they return to Indianapolis in June to complete the work they should have finished last month.