The focus of IPFW's 2012 fall convocation, the annual welcome event for faculty and administrators held Monday when students returned to classes, was on the future of the regional campus.
That future will be in the hands of a new leader starting Sept. 1. Vicky Carwein was chosen to replace retired Chancellor Mike Wartell. A future which, according to reports on Monday, presents some challenges for the incoming chancellor, including declining enrollment and budget constraints.
Initial enrollment numbers are down significantly, said Mark Franke, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.
"This is not going to be the good-news part of the program," he said to the faculty and administrators present in the Rhinehart Music Center for Monday's event.
He said after just one day of classes, final numbers are hard to predict, but reports indicate enrollment at IPFW is down about 1,000 students. He said the most discouraging aspect of the reports is that 600 of those students weren't those who didn't enroll but were those that simply didn't return.
The economy in the area is improving, which has also affected the university's adult enrollment, Franke said. He said the university has also stiffened its admission standards, moving from a 94 percent acceptance rate to 87 percent.
He said some initiatives are in place or will be in the next year to improve enrollment numbers, including ramped-up efforts to recruit highs school students who take classes at IPFW and an expansion of the geographic recruiting area.
To help retention, the university plans to target those students at-risk for failing by issuing midterm grades for students who are near-failing in their classes.
Interim Chancellor Walt Branson gave a report on the budget, of which 58 percent is supported by student fees. Declining enrollment also means a decreased budget.
Branson said the state is also moving to dolling out funds for higher education institutions based on performance. These incentives reward institutions for achieving certain benchmarks in retention and graduation, among others. The unviersity's performance could mean cuts in funding by about $1 million, Branson said.
"The focus will be maintained on functions that promote the academic mission," Branson said.
Branson introduced Carwein to attendees, saying she will "lead us through these times of change."
Carwein said she'd dealt with budget cuts before, as chancellor at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, Wash. She said Indiana is in a much better state than Washington, a state that has faced deficits for four years.
"I see lots of good things, great things about IPFW," she said. "I look forward to working with all of you to take IPFW to the next level."
Carwein assured the audience that the mission of educating and serving students will continue to be a top priority.
The university also welcomed about 30 new faculty members who join IPFW this year.