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More autonomy needed for IPFW

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 12:01 am

So it can better meet our regional needs

As Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne tries to map its future, it does not have to choose between the extremes of continued domination by the parent campuses in Bloomington and West Lafayette or full-fledged independence. It can seek the middle path of greater autonomy that would give it the elevated status now only accorded to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Being promoted to the status of “multisystem comprehensive university” would give IPFW more funding opportunities and greater leeway in such things as starting doctoral programs.

A good case for greater autonomy was made before a series of legislative study committee meetings this summer. Though it ranks fifth among the state’s public institutions, IPFW is only 12th in the amount it receives from the state per full-time equivalent resident student. The student body is increasingly full-time. The university has done of good job of identifying regional needs address but doesn’t have the flexibility to meet them adequately.

The recommendation to grant elevated status to IPFW didn’t win a recommendation of approval from the Regional Campus Study Committee. But it could still be introduced once the regular session of the General Assembly starts, and area legislators such as Rep. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, plan to keep the spotlight on the issue.

The eight regional campuses of Purdue and Indiana fill a unique niche in Indiana’s higher education network. They have to connect students to the parent institutions and help then get ready for the great educations they can get there. But they have to meet regional needs, too, and there is a growing awareness of the role higher education needs to play in economic development.

All the campuses need a greater degree of autonomy, but that’s especially true of ones like IPFW that have grown to be such integral parts of their communities. At least our education leaders seem aware of that, even if they are moving a little more slowly than many would like.

Pick a side

The two sides in the debate over a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage doesn’t seem to be “for it” and “against it” but “against it” and “staying out of the fight.” Earlier, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce came out against the amendment, and the Indiana Chamber announced its neutrality. Now, Indiana University has said it will help fight the amendment, and Purdue University has declared neutrality, a spokeswoman saying the school has “traditionally declined to comment on social issues being debated in the public arena.”

Wonder how many voters will opt for neutrality? Most people we’ve talked to have opinions on the issue, and rather strong ones at that.