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Chamber: State universities need to be more efficient

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Indiana’s public universities vary widely in how much money they spend to educate and graduate students—and none are performing at the top of their peer groups in efficiency, according to a new study commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The report, released Thursday morning, doesn’t declare any winners or losers in the relatively new world of measuring higher education institutions on productivity and parsimony. But Chamber leaders called for all Indiana schools to do better.

"That is tough medicine for some in the education community to accept. But just as those in the private sector have been forced to do more with less, just to survive, so must our public institutions,” Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said in a statement.

The report was funded by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education and conducted by the Colorado-based National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. Full results from the study can be read at achieveindiana.org.

The study compares how much in state, local, tuition and fee revenue each school receives per student and per graduate. It then compares each school’s “cost per degree” against a group of peer institutions selected by the school and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

By that measure, two state-funded universities have costs that are less than 90 percent of their peer groups: Ivy Tech Community College, as a whole, and Purdue University at each of its four campuses statewide.

Only one school has costs that are greater than 110 percent of its peers: Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

Among other schools, Ball State University’s costs are slightly higher than its peers, Indiana University-Bloomington’s are slightly lower than its peers, and IUPUI’s are equal to its peers.

The study also tries to examine each school’s funding compared with the “value” of the degrees they are producing, which is determined by weighting each schools’ degrees by the average salaries currently earned by Indiana residents with those same degrees.

The report concludes that the biggest economic gains to be had are by improving productivity at Indiana’s institutions that grant two-year degrees and professional certificates, such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes University. Indiana is currently a net importer of workers with such credentials, the report noted, while it is a net exporter of four-year bachelor’s degree holders.

The focus on university productivity has received significant attention in recent years from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. In December, the commission drew national attention for using measures of productivity as a key factor in apportioning budget cuts for universities. Some schools received smaller percentage cuts and some received larger cuts, based on how much money they were spending per student and per graduate.

“Our college and university leaders increasingly recognize that Indiana’s economic realities and work-force needs require new ways of thinking about how we measure performance and progress in higher education,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education, in a statement.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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