The Herald-Times

Bloomington Ivy Tech clearly needs project

H-T Editorial Board

June 9, 2011

After dipping into the business of Indiana University and the state’s other four-year institutions regarding tuition increases, the state’s Higher Education Commission now has blocked needed construction from beginning on the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

Last month, the commission recommended a modest tuition increase of 3.5 percent for IU. The university’s officials approved just that, but added a repair and rehabilitation fee that made some members of the commission cry foul. Their goal was to keep the cost increase down for students and their parents. IU officials had that goal plus another one: to protect a huge investment in buildings that are badly in need of repair. IU officials have the more realistic view.

Now, we learn that the commission has withdrawn from active consideration an addition to the fast-growing Bloomington Ivy Tech campus. Design and engineering approval has been granted, and bonding authority for a $20.35 million addition was approved in 2009. Now, the commission said there is no state funding for the project to move forward, and besides, the Legislature wants the commission to study Ivy Tech enrollment and campus plans.

Here’s what a study will show about the Bloomington campus: More than 6,500 students are enrolled at a campus built just nine years ago for 5,000 students. That requires campus chancellor John Whikehart to negotiate six separate lease agreements and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in rent on additional space. Moving ahead on the project, especially with interest rates low and an economy in need of construction jobs, would be the most efficient, cost-effective thing to do.

Whikehart is frustrated.

“I don’t know why we are being asked, again, to prove we need this building addition,” he told H-T reporter Mike Leonard. “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 ... . All the goals are in conflict.”

The frustration is merited. This project deserves to move forward quickly.

Copyright: 2011