Lawmakers say they want input on Ivy Tech campus, budget decisions

By Lesley Weidenbener
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – State budget leaders said Wednesday they’re concerned about moves Ivy Tech Community College may be making to shrink its footprint across Indiana and are baffled by talk of money problems at the school.

State Budget Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told officials from Ivy Tech Community College on Wednesday that lawmakers are receiving mixed signals about their budget and building needs. Photo by Lesley Weidenenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

State Budget Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told officials from Ivy Tech Community College on Wednesday that lawmakers are receiving mixed signals about their budget and building needs. Photo by Lesley Weidenenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Luke Kenley told the school’s officials they need to be more open with lawmakers about their budget and building issues.

“Everybody’s confused and feeling like we’re receiving mixed signals,” Kenley said.

The discussion came shortly after the bipartisan State Budget Committee approved more than $120 million in Ivy Tech-related construction projects in northwest Indiana, Anderson, Bloomington and Indianapolis. The group was meeting at the Ivy Tech campus in Indianapolis.

The vote for the construction was unanimous and part of a larger motion to approve a number of other state projects.

“It’s very difficult to have any objection to any particular project before us,” said state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. “But there’s certainly been a lot of stuff in the paper recently about some budget deficit that Ivy Tech has.”

The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this summer that Ivy Tech officials are studying whether to close some of its 72 locations in an effort to eliminate a funding gap. That frustrated lawmakers who have boosted revenue for Ivy Tech even as it cut funding for other schools.

On Wednesday, Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder assured the budget committee – a group of four legislative fiscal leaders and the state’s budget director – that the school is operating in the black.

He said the college has a $78 million “shortfall,” which he said is the difference between what the college has to spend and what it thinks it needs. He said officials are trying to close the gap by eliminating administrative positions and expects to announce some layoffs next week. The school also raised tuition.

Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder said Wednesday that the school is operating in the black but wants to find about $78 million in funding to provide better services and hire more full-time faculty. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder said Wednesday that the school is operating in the black but wants to find about $78 million in funding to provide better services and hire more full-time faculty. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

But he said officials are additionally reviewing many of Ivy Tech’s 72 locations – particularly those that are not official campuses but leased operations in communities not otherwise served by the college.

The school currently spends about $6 million on those facilities, money he said that comes not from lawmakers for buildings but as part of general operating funds that could be spent on professors. Many of those locations are joint efforts with local communities and were initially launched with private funds.

Lawmakers, though, are concerned about any talk of shuttering locations. House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican who serves on the budget committee, said his community has one of those locations – and the community helped create it.

Brown said hopes the enrollment there will showcase the interest and keep it open. But he acknowledged that’s likely to be the opinion of every lawmaker with an Ivy Tech location.

“Everything’s local,” he said. “Everybody is going to have some local interest to anything that comes out about this.”

Snyder told lawmakers that the most popular locations are likely to be spared. He pointed to a strip mall location in Avon that serves 3,000 students.

“That’s not going to go away,” he told them.

But Snyder said the college needs to do an analysis of all its locations and determine which ones could be closed, without taking educational opportunities for students.

The school said it will finish that analysis this fall and make recommendations to the Ivy Tech board. But Kenley said those decisions should be made jointly with lawmakers and administrative officials.

Kenley told Ivy Tech officials they’re off to “a rocky start” but he said more discussions at State Budget Committees will be one way to smooth out the process.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly listed the total funding for Ivy Tech-related construction projects. The correct total is more than $120 million. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the error.

You can see all our corrections here: http://thestatehousefile.com/info/corrections/

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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