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Ivy Tech president says he leaves legacy of much to be done

April 17, 2016

The departing president of Ivy Tech Community College says there's much work to be done in its future.

Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder leaves this year. His nine-year tenure as president of Indiana's statewide community college system has included big enrollment swings and graduation rates that have been persistently low.

"The legacy I leave behind is there's a lot of work to be done," Snyder said.

The Ivy Tech trustees are expected to pick the new president in May from among three finalists chosen by a search committee, whom the school has declined to name publicly, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann has been regarded as a leading candidate for Ivy Tech president since Gov. Mike Pence announced in December that she planned to apply. Pence, who appoints the 14 members of Ivy Tech's board, reiterated his support for Ellspermann when she resigned in March.

Ivy Tech, which has more than 30 campuses across the state, grew from roughly 100,000 students to 170,000 students in Snyder's time as president before dropping off in the last few years. Roughly a quarter of part-time students graduate with an associate's degree after six years, according to state data. The answer, Snyder said, is more funding.

"If you want to have more impact with low-income students, you may have to invest more money," he said. "This is a state that's not investing much in higher education."

Some changes initially tried by Ivy Tech didn't work, like mandatory orientation. Snyder said positive outcomes could result from more recent efforts, such as getting rid of the delay in the beginning of college-level courses due to remedial classes.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's higher education commissioner, said many steps are needed to improve graduation rates.

She said Indiana needs to ensure more Ivy Tech students are prepared by remediating high school students that aren't prepared for college. A clearer plan to getting a degree once at Ivy Tech would be needed, as would more counseling so that students who might leave prior to completing their program could be identified.

"I think now we need to really double down on finding ways to be more successful for those students," Lubbers said.

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