From the Herald Times
This guest column was submitted by Jennifer A. Vaughan, chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington.

I recently conducted a hard-hat tour of our building expansion for some community leaders and they were impressed with, but unaware of, the breadth of academic opportunities available at Ivy Tech-Bloomington. This got me thinking that perhaps we can never over-tell the story of Ivy Tech.

Currently, we are constructing an impressive 90,000-square-foot addition to the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building, which is the main campus building of Ivy Tech-Bloomington on the west side of town. It’s a large project — $24 million construction — with even bigger outcomes when it becomes operational in January 2016.

Students and staff will benefit from additional classrooms, labs, an expanded tutoring and academic support center, a significantly enlarged library, streamlined admissions and academic advising and a new and conveniently accessible bookstore. The student experience will be positively impacted with an expanded Bloomingfoods Ivy Tech and much-needed common areas for students to enjoy while studying, waiting for class or collaborating in group meetings.

Much of our new space has been designed to also meet the skills needs of employers — a state-of-the-art culinary arts lab, an emerging technology suite, a multi-dimensional robotics lab, a Center for STEAM (science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship, arts-design, and math) with a new “maker space” for students and faculty, industry-aligned degree program in the School of Computing and Informatics (including cyber-security) and new programs to create more engineering technicians needed at NSWC Crane.

We know that employers are having difficulty finding employees with the technical and soft skills necessary to do the jobs available today, and this new space will allow Ivy Tech to create more workers ready for the jobs of the future.

These are all important improvements that will make our programs at Ivy Tech more attractive to new and returning students, and deliver the value our partners expect.

Why all this fuss over new space? Ivy Tech plays a key role in improving our state’s low educational attainment rate. According to 2013 census figures, only 34.7 percent of Indiana’s 3.4 million working-age adults (25-64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. The state’s attainment rate is lower than the national average of 40 percent. To meet Indiana’s need for trained workers by the year 2025, we will need to nearly double that figure.

Ivy Tech’s high-quality, affordable educational and training opportunities deliver what our customers — including the state — tell us they need. At roughly $4,000 per academic year (30 credit hours), we are leaders in the state and provide our students learning experiences without the burden of massive debt upon graduation. Throw in the dual-credit options available to most Indiana high school students and we are significantly lowering the cost of a college degree, without compromising quality or experience.

We invite you to come out for Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s grand opening of the expansion later this year. If you don’t want to wait for that, call us for your own hard-hat tour to see for yourself the impact and changes happening at Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus. I’ll be glad to personally tell you our story.

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.