Summer’s lull in certain types of community activity came to its usual abrupt halt the past 10 days as local institutions of higher learning opened their doors for a new school year.
A burst of energy always accompanies the return of college students to Terre Haute and Vigo County. The campuses, commercial areas and city’s downtown district reap the most notable benefits — or detriments, if you prefer a more pessimistic view — of the surge.
While every college town endures its share of tensions when students return from summer break, Terre Haute in recent years has begun to more clearly recognize that the presence of area colleges and universities provide it with a big part of its personality and identity. In doing so, it also provides the community with one of its more promising paths to prosperity.
The social and economic impacts of area colleges aren’t all we need to flourish, but they are key elements in the formula. Community leaders obviously recognize that and use it to paint a positive — and totally realistic — view of the future.
Indiana State University, by virtue of its size and geographic location, is the anchor of the higher education community. This fall, ISU marks a major development in its master plan by opening the new Scott College of Business in the former Federal Building at the corner of Seventh and Cherry Streets.
The university since its inception has been an urban campus that borders Terre Haute’s downtown. But last year’s opening of the building housing the Barnes and Noble Bookstore and ISU Foundation offices, and this year’s opening of the business school, officially brings ISU across Cherry Street and into the downtown district in a major way. The next phase of ISU development may well place student housing in downtown locations, including on Wabash Avenue.
While ISU’s expansion deeper into downtown represents a major change for the community, we see it as a positive development and one that helps make an important section of the city more vital and vibrant.
We would, however, be naïve to ignore the potential problems that can occur. One need only look back to the recent fatal shooting of an ISU student outside of a tavern bordering the campus to understand the community must be vigilant in reacting quickly and effectively to safety and security concerns to ensure that tragic incidents such as this remain rare.
ISU’s is not the only significant higher education presence here. Not by a long shot. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on the city’s east side is smaller, but its national reputation as an undergrad engineering school bolsters the community’s image in the state and throughout the Midwest.
Likewise, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the small liberal arts school for women, provides an element of educational and gender diversity uncommon in most college towns.
Vocational schools such as Ivy Tech State College and Harrison College also add to the array of choices available to people who want to better themselves through higher education. And the presence of these institutions make our community better in many other ways as well.
We extend our welcome to the returning students, and we’re anxious to see what new and exciting benefits our colleges bring to Terre Haute in the coming school year. We anticipate there will be many.