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Ivy Tech system high in grads, low in graduation rates

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Ivy Tech Community College ranks first among two-year educational institutions nationwide for the number of associate degrees it awards, the college announced Monday.

However, Indiana's community college system, already grappling with a $68 million deficit, is facing scrutiny over its graduation rates as it works to shore up its role as the linchpin needed to close the state's skilled-worker gap.

Ivy Tech said an annual study by Community College Week ranked it tops in degrees conferred, with 8,940 awarded in the 2011-12 academic years, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.

Despite the high number of degrees, many more students are failing to obtain the diploma in a desired amount of time, critics say.

Just 4 percent of students at Ivy Tech graduate within two years and only 23 percent earn diplomas in six years, according to state data. And that's making state officials wary of pumping more money into the system if the results don't improve.

"Is it a funding issue, or is it a completion issue?" said Marilee Springer, Gov. Mike Pence's senior policy director. "We can keep driving money in, but that money needs to lead to degree completion. I don't know if more funding is the answer."

Ivy Tech leaders dispute the calculations, saying the state only counts "first-time, full-time" students - which Ivy Tech administrators say is not representative of the student body.

Ivy Tech says it guides about half of its students toward "success" within six years — but that definition includes students who haven't completed degrees.

President Tom Snyder acknowledges that there's room for improvement and that Ivy Tech falls behind similar institutions across the country.

"Are we doing this as well as we can as a system?" Snyder asked. "No."

But he contends that reduced funding will translate into fewer degrees.

Ivy Tech plans to redesign remediation programs, create clearer paths to graduation and establish more one-year accelerated programs. The American Association of Community Colleges is also developing a "voluntary framework of accountability" to gauge community colleges' performances.

Education advocates say that's only a start.

"The first part of fixing a problem is, let's look at the problem we've got and not be defensive about it," said Cheryl Orr Dixon, senior vice president and chief of staff of Complete College America. "We are not patient with people who want to explain away data."

Complete College America and the Lumina Foundation, which found Indiana ranked last in six-year completion rates for students at public two-year institutions, both agree students are at a higher risk of dropping out if they take six years to finish a two-year degree. The groups support encouraging students to take full-time class loads when possible. That often means colleges need to make their classes available at better times.

"Some students perhaps need to go part-time, but going part-time is highly correlated with never finishing," said Jim Applegate, Lumina's vice president of strategic impact.

Snyder, the Ivy Tech president, said state leaders are ignoring the impact of funding on completion rates. Ivy Tech is considering closing a quarter of its facilities and is weighing administrative and staff layoffs to help close its $68 million budget gap.

"There's a lag in understanding both at the general assembly level in each state and at the federal level that I think will need to be addressed," he said.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, said the numbers have to change.

"We're nowhere close to where we need to be with completion," Lubbers said. "I think all this means turning upside-down the delivery of education at the community college, based on not what the institution has been doing in the past but what the student needs now. These are stubborn numbers to move. We have to be willing to try multiple new ways to do this."

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  • IVY Tech and Adjunct Instructors
    The issues with IVY Tech are many. Adjuncts that are the primary instructors instead of full-time faculty, commuter schools not close to the student populations. Numbers are meaningless with IVY Tech being the largest Community College system if they don't act like one and have so many students taking remedial courses just to catch up with the 4 year college requirements on Math, Science, English, Communications, etc. The administration of IVY Tech is overpayed for what they produce. A six year 50 percent rate for a 2 year school is unacceptable. If this were a four year school, would a 12 year 50 percent B.S. rate be acceptable. The purpose of a 2 year degree is 2 years, 3 at most, then a job. Perhaps the state needs to revisit this and return the 2 year degree prorams to the state schools, Purdue, IU, Ball State, IUPUI, Indiana State, and fold IVY Tech into their control, eliminate the current IVY Tech administration and have real Universities with full time instructors run it.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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