The Herald-Times

Ivy Tech building addition on higher education commission agenda today

By Mike Leonard

331-4368 |

March 11, 2011

A greatly-needed addition to the Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington campus is on the agenda for discussion and recommended approval by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education when it meets today in Indianapolis.

The commission can’t approve construction of the proposed 85,000-square-foot, $20 million structure until it moves from a discussion item to an action item at another meeting. And it still can’t be built until the five-member State Budget Committee approves the project — and that’s not a guarantee with some state officials concerned about Indiana’s overall bonded indebtedness.

“But I’d sure rather be on the agenda than not and knocking on the door to have this discussion,” said Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart.

Whikehart said Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder recently wrote a letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels officially asking for authority to proceed with the Bloomington project. The Indiana General Assembly approved the design phase for an addition to the campus in 2007 and approved bonding authority for construction in 2009. The project has not passed through the higher education commission and state budget committee because of the state and national recession, however.

Whikehart makes a strong argument to get moving on the expansion, and the document before the commission does as well.

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. It was projected to meet the needs of the campus until the 2011-12 school year.

Enrollment has increased at a more rapid pace than projected, however, with more than 6,344 students currently enrolled. Ivy Tech currently leases an additional 30,000-square-foot in strip shopping centers near the campus as well.

The document that will be presented to the higher education commission today forecasts that if the current annual double-digit enrollment increases continue, the campus is on track for a 13,000-student headcount by 2020.

Whikehart said it’s not unreasonable to expect the campus to keep growing. Partnerships with Indiana University, including the ability to transfer credits from Ivy Tech to IU, have turned the Bloomington campus into a unique institution in the Ivy Tech Community College system.

The Bloomington campus has an unheard-of student population mix that includes students from 73 of Indiana’s 92 counties, while Ivy Tech locations primarily serve their proximate counties. Bloomington, for example, was envisioned to serve a six-county south-central Indiana region.

“We now look at our student enrollment, and almost half of our student enrollment is in liberal arts, general studies or other transfer-type courses,” Whikehart said. “We’ve become a magnet campus in our own system to fulfill half of our mission,” he said. The Bloomington campus also is thriving in the other half of its mission, work-force development.

Whikehart said he sees both short-term and long-term benefits, should new construction be approved. “It’s a good time to be building, because of the recession. Construction costs are very favorable. There’s a possibility we could even get a little more building than what we’re asking for here, depending on the bids.”

The 85,000-square-foot addition to the north side of the existing building was initially a 115,000-square-foot project that was scaled back as it moved through the Legislature.

“The immediate payoff in new construction would be more people working and more money flowing back into the local economy,” he said. “The long-term benefit is obvious — we’ll be better prepared to accommodate our student population as we get some years out from this construction.”

Even though the design plan and campus infrastructure already are in place, Whikehart said that it likely will take three years before the new addition would be open to students, even with an expeditious approval of plans. That would put the opening of the proposed addition at the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

The Ivy Tech chancellor will have broad backing from the community when the building addition is proposed in Indianapolis. He’ll be accompanied by a diverse group of Bloomington representatives, including Danise Alano-Martin, Bloomington Economic Development director; Christy Gillenwater, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president; Ron Walker, president and CEO of Bloomington Economic Development Corp.; and several others.

Ivy Tech Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart

Copyright: 2011