Letters and Opinion

The other side of McRobbie's speech

October 22, 2011

Most of Michael McRobbie’s comments in his state of the university message [“Public in name only,” Oct. 15], which pushes for more freedom from state control, stem from his unhappiness with two actions of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, both of which are supported by the Legislature.

The first is the Performance Funding Model developed by the commission, wherein 5 percent of each university’s operating appropriation was allocated according to their performance with respect to certain goals, such as course completion and degree completion on time. The second is the level of the commission’s current recommendations regarding tuition increases for in-state students the next two years, beginning with the fall of 2011.

The commission recommended a 0 [percent] to 3.5-percent increase at Bloomington for each of the next two years, which at its maximum is very generous in a time of recession and falling incomes for Hoosier wage earners. IU adopted tuition increases for Indiana residents of 10.9 percent to 20.6 percent. This is out of line in these times, especially considering the fact that Indiana University has increased tuition over the last 20 years by substantially more than 200 percent.

IU’s own mission statement says that it intends to “provide broad access to undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education for students throughout Indiana … ” Affordability is part of access and IU is not meeting the commission’s or the Legislature’s expectations with these increases.

McRobbie correctly points out that the state’s share of operating revenue through appropriation is falling and therefore he concludes that state control should be reduced.

He fails to mention that the state additionally appropriated over $406 million more to the universities for retirement of debt service on buildings, student scholarships and other special university line items. He fails to mention that state funding has increased every biennium for 30 years, except for the last two, when universities were asked to take cuts substantially smaller than other departments in state government.

Many departments receive almost no funding in the state budget, but the Legislature retains full control over their operations because of the important public interests involved.

With higher education, the Legislature has given the universities much freedom, but in the end, providing higher education opportunities for Hoosiers in an affordable, accessible way cannot be completely ceded to the universities. IU’s recent decisions seem to add an exclamation point to that conclusion.

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Luke Kenley, Noblesville
chair of Indiana Senate appropriations committee
 

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