Ivy Tech addition hits state roadblock
By Mike Leonard
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June 8, 2011
Ivy Tech Community College’s proposed expansion of its primary Bloomington building will not get the go-ahead from the state to proceed this year and possibly not in 2012, college officials learned this week.
The fast-growing Bloomington campus received design and engineering approval from the Indiana Legislature in 2007-09 and was granted bonding authority for a $20.35 million, 85,000-square-foot addition in 2009. That approval was a compromise from the more than 105,000-square-foot addition the school requested.
Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart hoped the much-needed addition to the existing facility was on its way to final approval when the Indiana Commission for Higher Education put the project on its March agenda for discussion with a recommendation for approval at an April or May meeting.
The commission withdrew the Bloomington project and several others from active consideration, however.
“There is not any state funding in the budget for the next biennium (2011-13) and we felt it would not be right to move it forward,” said Jason Dudich, associate commissioner and chief financial officer for the HEC. “There is also a requirement in the budget bill that passed requiring the commission to conduct a study of Ivy Tech enrollment and campus plans and report back to the state budget committee.”
That study, he said, will be conducted in the late summer and fall and is not expected to be completed until December.
“I’m confused by that,” Whikehart said this week. “Every time we do what they’ve asked us to do, they come back with a different reason they’re not approving our building addition. It’s like they move the goalposts on us every two years.”
The current main campus building on Bloomington’s west side is a 148,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2002 and was designed to accommodate 5,000 students. Ivy Tech enrolled nearly 6,500 students in each semester of the past school year and leases 30,000 square feet near the campus, mostly along Liberty Drive. It also holds classes in the John Waldron Arts Center in downtown Bloomington and accommodates another 500 students in Bedford through an agreement with Oakland City University.
“I don’t know why we are being asked, again, to prove that we need this building addition,” Whikehart said. “They told us in the past they were going to fund us based on enrollment growth, and we’ve delivered on that. Now they’re saying we want you to improve your graduation rate and we’ll reward you for that. But they also want us to maintain open enrollment access and provide remediation, and if you don’t graduate your students in three years you don’t get rewarded. All the goals are in conflict.”
At the higher education commission, Dudich said the governor and leaders in the Republican-controlled General Assembly aren’t confortable with moving forward on issuing bonds to pay for the Bloomington project and other projects while also maintaining the surplus that Gov. Mitch Daniels wants the state to maintain.
State Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, said she wasn’t in favor of the governor’s position in 2009 that he didn’t want to approve new construction during a recession, and she also believes the higher education commission is inappropriately lumping in the Bloomington campus’s already-approved building addition with new construction projects on other campuses.
She said this week that interest rates on bond issues are low during a recession, construction bids have been regularly coming in below estimates and “in a recession the one thing the government can do is invest in infrastructure and put people to work. At the Bloomington campus, we already own the land, the plans are already done and we’re ready to move forward. They are already spending more on leases and rent than they would in fee replacement. If there was ever a shovel-ready project just waiting to go, this is it.”
Whikehart expressed frustration that with the new delays in project approval, he will have no choice but to renegotiate and sign five-year leases for the community college’s rented space. “We are literally in six leases and paying over $400,000 a year and the commission wants to know whether our enrollment supports expansion,” he said. “I guess the good news for local owners is we’re going to have to enter into new leases, because I have to protect our ability to have adequate space for the students we have now,” he said.
John Whikehart, Bloomington Ivy Tech chancellor
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2011