Ivy Tech said today its enrollment of 120,447 in the 2007-08 academic year topped the 118,952 students in the Indiana University system. Purdue had 39,102 students.
Ivy Tech attributed the growth to more students recognizing the value of the community college system, and the claim isn't so far off the mark, said Stan Jones, state commissioner for higher education.
"People recognize that it wasn't just a technical college, a vocational college, that it had a broader range of programs," Jones said.
In recent months, Ivy Tech and other colleges have seen an enrollment surge as people look to compete for jobs that have become scarce in the down economy.
Long term, Ivy Tech continues to benefit from its 1999 conversion from a vocational system. Community college status broadened offerings beyond welding and other trades to include fields that could transfer to four-year institutions, such as education and business.
As a result, Ivy Tech enrollment has nearly doubled since the conversion.
However, Indiana is playing catch-up.
Only about one-third of students in post-secondary institutions in Indiana are in the community college system. In other states about half are in community colleges.
That's because Indiana launched community colleges long after most states adopted the notion in the '60s and '70s.
Jones said the increase in Ivy Tech's attendance is being driven almost entirely by people who wouldn't have gone to a more traditional college.