By Sue Loughlin Tribune-Star
---- — TERRE HAUTE — Ivy Tech Community College officials now say it will be December or later before a final decision is made regarding leased sites around the state that could be closed.
College president Tom Snyder addressed the topic and related issues during a meeting of the State Budget Committee Friday at Terre Haute.
No specifics were provided as to which sites might be closed. A “return on investment” analysis is under way at all 43 leased learning sites; the college has a total of 76 educational locations in Indiana.
Earlier this summer, Ivy Tech officials stated that mounting budget woes and a $78 million shortfall could prompt the closing of some of the college’s leased learning sites. Initial reports indicated that up to 20 leased sites could be closed.
Jeff Terp, Ivy Tech senior vice president, now says the estimated 20 sites was “speculation made in the media.”
A final decision ultimately would be made by the state board of trustees, based on the recommendation of the president and discussion with external stakeholders, Terp said after the meeting.
Ivy Tech will look at data from the 43 sites, and once it has that in hand, “We’ll have discussions with our board, policy makers and local government,” Terp said. “It will be a collaborative process before any decision is made.”
If a decision is made to close a site or sites, “It will most likely be at the December meeting” of Ivy Tech trustees, Terp said. But it could come after December.
According to information provided to the State Budget Committee, Ivy Tech leases 1.4 million square feet of space, or 23 percent of its total space; the cost of the leased space is about $5 million per year.
All 43 leased learning sites are under review, Snyder said Friday. State-funded sites will not be closed, nor will Ivy Tech Foundation leases be ended, he said.
In conducting its analysis, Ivy Tech will consider site closures if minimal students are impacted; there are high operating costs; and facilities have outdated and/or inefficient spaces, according to information provided to the State Budget Committee.
The Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley region leases facilities in Linton, Rockville and Sullivan as well as the Martin Luther King Center housed at the Meadows shopping center.
Those sites are part of the overall review, said Ann Valentine, Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley chancellor. Within the last week, the Wabash Valley region sent information that included enrollments and lease costs to state officials for their review, she said in a telephone interview.
There is no “target” as to how many sites will be closed, Snyder said. “We’re not looking at it that way.”
To the extent the college could save money by closing some of the sites, that money would be redeployed into other areas such as faculty and advisers, Snyder said.
“If we can’t save any money without damaging our goal toward [college] attainment, we won’t do it,” Snyder said.
Indiana has a 33 percent college attainment rate, meaning just 33 percent of adults have a two-year degree or greater, Terp said.
Since its creation in 2005, the community college system has had large enrollment growth, but state funding has not kept pace, Snyder said. The college needs more full-time faculty and advisers as well as updated equipment, he said.
While it is considering closing leased facilities, Ivy Tech currently does not have enough space to meet its needs, Snyder said, emphasizing the space is about 500,000 square-feet short of what is needed.
“This is a state that has under-invested in its community college,” he said.
During the meeting, State Sen. Luke Kenley, chairman of the State Budget Committee, said Ivy Tech’s role in Indiana higher education “is one that is critically important.”
The growth and increase in enrollment has been “phenomenal,” he said, while recognizing there have been growing pains.
Ivy Tech has been presenting some of its challenges to the State Budget Committee, which Kenley views as a forum “to try to get the Legislature to consider those issues,” he said.
But as Ivy Tech makes decisions about closing leased sites, Kenley asked the college to review alternative sites that would be available to students if certain sites close.
He also suggested a more structured approach in the future when Ivy Tech wants to enter lease agreements, which might mean involving the Commission for Higher Education or the Legislature, Kenley said.