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IPFW budget woes sink RiverFest

Friday, October 11, 2013 - 8:58 am

It looks like the IPFW RiverFest is water over the dam.

In her weekly update on a variety of topics emailed Thursday to IPFW faculty and staff, Chancellor Vicky Carwein announced the university will no longer host the one-day celebration of Fort Wayne's rivers.

Started in 2010, RiverFest featured a variety of activities in and along the St. Joseph River as it passes the IPFW campus at 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

In years past, the June event had been held around the Venderly Family Bridge, on the river just north of Coliseum Boulevard. This year's festival, held on June 22, had to move most events farther north along the river because of construction work at the Coliseum entrance.

In her letter, Carwein linked the elimination of RiverFest -- and additional upcoming cuts -- to IPFW's enrollment decline, which resulted in a loss of $4 million in revenue.

Carwein said IPFW “had to take a hard look at projects and events subsidized by the university and evaluate them for alignment with our mission and priorities. As a result of this evaluation and our need to reduce our budget, we will no longer host RiverFest.”

However, she said IPFW “has proudly celebrated our community engagement through a wide variety of events and activities, such as the Omnibus Lecture Series and Tapestry: A Day for You, and we will continue our commitment to our community.”

She also voiced excitement about the many events planned for the university's 50th anniversary celebration next year.

IPFW saw its 2013-2014 enrollment drop by 312 students and 5,516 credit hours, the university reported previously.

To stop that slide, the university plans to concentrate on efforts to recruit and retain students, said Nicole Wilkins, chief communications officer.

Projects and events are being evaluated "across the board" to make sure they meet the recruit-and-retain focus, Wilkins said, especially those like RiverFest that are subsidized by the university.

"By the end of the month, we should have a full plan in terms of how to deal with the $4 million shortfall," she said.

The enrollment declines at IPFW mirror trends at other universities around the country, Wilkins said.

She said there has been no discussion yet about whether another person or organization could carry on RiverFest without IPFW's involvement.