Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014 2:00 am

The Herald-Times

In early February, the Ivy Tech Community College State Board of Governors announced that the college’s Bloomington and Evansville campuses would share a chancellor.

Until the announcement, each campus had its own chancellor, providing a degree of independence and concentration of effort for each to pursue directions specific to the needs of their regions.

But John Whikehart, who had served as the Bloomington chancellor and had overseen its extremely rapid expansion, had recently announced he was stepping down from that post, and Southwest Chancellor Daniel Schenk also was retiring.

The community college system, looking for ways to economize, wanted to consolidate administrative functions. Such coincidental leadership openings at two neighboring Ivy Tech regions presented an opportunity to do just that — hire a single replacement to oversee both regional colleges — despite the fact their main campuses are more than 100 miles apart.

This week, that plan changed. Tom Snyder, president of the statewide system, announced the plan won’t happen and Bloomington will remain independent, and will have its own chancellor.

Instead, the Evansville and Terre Haute campuses will be hiring a new shared chancellor, something made possible by the recent news that Terre Haute’s chancellor would be leaving.

Now, what that does for either of those two campuses — they’re about the same distance apart as Evansville and Bloomington (and without benefit of a brand new Interstate connection) — is unclear.

But for the Bloomington campus and for this region, it’s good news.

Snyder said the reversal came partly because the Terre Haute position happened to come open and partly because the Bloomington campus is in the middle of an effort to raise $4 million to add to $20 million of state money promised for expansion here.

That’s a sound reason but certainly not the only one that makes this latest announcement good news for Bloomington.

We pointed out on this page shortly after the Bloomington/Evansville sharing arrangement was announced that consolidations — whether they’re of banks, bakeries, bookstores or college campuses — almost always save money with elimination of redundant services.

But they also can reduce response times and services, especially when one site is dominant over others in the consolidation. And there would be no guarantee which campus would be the dog and which the tail, especially since Evansville is the larger of the two cities.

The Bloomington region has thrived under the leadership of an only-local boss, and has special connections with both local industry and Indiana University. To neglect either interest, if only because resources are spread too thin to pay as much attention as required, would be a real step backward.

There is a point that was raised earlier, when it looked as if the original plan was going forward, and that’s the connection that I-69 will permit from Bloomington to Evansville, with the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center and its huge concentration of sophisticated technology conveniently located between the two.

That connection will be made even more clear as the newly designated Southwest Central Indiana economic region is articulated over the next several months. Stretching across much of this area of the state, it includes Bloomington, Jasper, the Crane base, Bedford and other cities and towns in its 11-county reach, stretching a long way toward Evansville.

Certainly, nurturing a shared sense of economic responsibility and opportunity across this new region can only be an advantage. But there is no reason to expect such an effort would be weakened by the Bloomington and Evansville campuses remaining independent of one another.

If anything, that independence could bring different strengths to the table and a wider vision that fosters cooperation among partners in a critical enterprise — the vitality of the area we call home — with each campus playing a vital role in what should be seen as development of a shared vision for prosperity.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.