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Indiana colleges want $700 million for new buildings

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Commission for Higher Education officials say Indiana's universities should get no money for capital projects during the next two-year state budget, despite a claim by college officials that they need about $700 million for new buildings and other projects.

University leaders fear a "spiral into mediocrity" if they don't get any funding for new projects and projects already approved by lawmakers that have not yet been funded, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Lawmakers who are creating the state's budget will have to determine how much money the colleges will get. The Legislature consistently approves more money than recommended by the commission, but this year could be different. Gov. Mitch Daniels has called for cuts in overall higher education spending, and some key legislators say everyone needs to do more with less these days.

Rep. Jeff Espich, a Republican from Uniondale who heads the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said legislative willpower has never been strong when universities come calling asking for new projects.

"But I think there is a little more discipline than normal this year," he said.

The Commission for Higher Education's proposal would put $522 million in new projects on hold, as well as half $169 million in projects that have been approved but not funded. Indiana University has requested $217 million for projects including science labs at IUPUI and a Wells Library renovation. Purdue University wants $184 million for projects including the renovation of Helmke Library.

Only six previously approved projects would be allowed to continue, the most expensive being a $20 million project for Ivy Tech Community College's Anderson campus.

Fast-growing Ivy Tech has a construction wish list of $145 million in new projects around the state, including Muncie, Lafayette, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Columbus.

"About half of our campuses are below our space needs," said Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder.

Though the commission called for a funding moratorium on projects, some lawmakers said that could lower the quality of education in the state.

"Right or wrong, to get the best students and to keep the outstanding professors, you have to have facilities to accommodate their expectations," said Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington. "And they also help create jobs."

Construction groups say $700 million in projects would go a long way.

J.R. Gaylor, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana, which represents 50,000 workers, said his industry currently has a 20 percent unemployment rate.

"If you take away the volume of contractors that would be needed for new construction projects like these, you would definitely have an impact," he said. "And we need to spur construction and economic growth in this state."

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  • Just Say No
    1st, maintain what is already built. To cut costs use various construction &/or engineering classes from IUPUI, Purdue, Ivy Tech etc to do the work and pay with Federal Work-Study funds. Students do learn from experience. Do not just keep building. Current high school population is decreasing and middle schools are being merged with high schools across the state because of population shift leaving classrooms empty. Enrollment will decline as economy improves, jobs become available, and people become full-time employees rather than full-time students. Utilize what is already built in the form of off-campus classrooms in the community. Rent may be costly, but not as costly as construction loans and the capital can be saved to generate interest for the rent payments. On the other hand, it would put a few people to work who would ultimately pay taxes and buy productsâ?¦. Ah, a public project of work for unemployment and welfare payments. Many public buildings and libraries standing and being used today were built as public projects. It does require some cost management â?? for the unemployed project managers and MBAs. Just donâ??t throw the tax dollars around without a solid, reasonable, rational, cost-effective plan.
  • Really
    Seriously - if the state wants to cut education budgets - they need to start with the institutions of higher learning. Come on, keep the money at the local schools, not everyone is going to go to college. I recall several buildings at my school that had the lights on but were not hardly used. So yes save your pennies, raise tuition, turn out the lights and pay for it on your own.
  • correction
    approach* campaigns*

    Dang!
  • Ball State
    Or the schools could use Ball State's approace; save money over time (tuition, fees, and capital compaigns), then pay cash for new buildings...don't worry about the state funding the projects.
    • Give it to them!
      Right now construction bids are low since contractors are desperate for work. If you wait two years everybody may be wanting new buildings which would take drive up prices dramatically.

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