Mounting budget woes and the need to deal with a $68 million deficit could force Ivy Tech Community College to close up to a quarter of its school sites around Indiana, school officials said.
The possible closures and a plan to boost tuition costs by $5 a semester will be considered next week by the school's trustees.
"There are only painful solutions because it's the only way to move the needle," Ivy Tech president Tom Snyder told The Indianapolis Star.
Ivy Tech has already consolidated its administration offices, and school officials will conduct a cost-benefit analysis this summer of about 50 of its 72 locations around Indiana. Those sites operate through lease agreements without state support and about 20 could face the ax, said Jeff Terp, Ivy Tech's senior vice president of engagement and institutional efficiency.
State officials hope Ivy Tech can retool its operations without significantly affecting students. Officials see Ivy Tech as playing a big role in Indiana's goal to double the number of Hoosier adults with college degrees or certificates.
Ivy Tech is also crucial to Gov. Mike Pence's effort to boost work force development by making sure Hoosiers have the education to fill available jobs.
"I would hope they would hold off on anything until we can review it together," said state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who leads the Senate finance committee.
Kenley said he wants to examine Ivy Tech's capital needs, its building sites, whether it has enough resources for its mission and "whether they can make changes."
Terp said Ivy Tech anticipates a slight dip in enrollment if it closes up to a quarter of its sites. He said that any new sites would open with state funding or community partnerships.
But that may not be enough to close the school's $68 million deficit, which began growing in 2005 when Ivy Tech became a statewide community college system, moving from a vocational and technical school.
Ivy Tech took over for other universities' regional campuses as Indiana's provider of associate degrees and handling most of Indiana's dual credit and remediation.
But Snyder said that from the beginning, Ivy Tech did not get enough state money per pupil — a situation that began expanding its budget deficit even though state appropriations for Ivy Tech have grew by more than 50 percent since 2005.
As the economy tanked, Ivy Tech's enrollment soared and the school doubled its budget and opened campuses. The school deferred expenses to cover the budget gaps.
School administrators say the current deficit means Ivy Tech cannot bring in more counselors to guide more students to graduation and it's unable to renovate labs to entice more welding students. The school also cannot hire more instructors for its nursing program, which has been capped due to the lack of funds.
Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, said the state isn't asking Ivy Tech "to do this with less money."
"They are getting more money. The question is always, how much is enough to do that?" she said.
Ivy Tech says it receives less funding per student than all other state universities.
Nationally, community colleges spend a fraction of what it costs research universities to educate each student.
But community colleges also serve a nontraditional population, including an increasing proportion of low-income and minority students, according to a report this month from The Century Foundation.