News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 21, 2014

Learning centers struggle to return on investment

SULLIVAN — The Ivy Tech Sullivan County Learning Center is projected to lose more than $200,000 over the next five years, something that must change if it is to remain open, an Ivy Tech official said Friday.

Jeff Terp, Ivy Tech executive vice president, spoke to the Wabash Valley regional board Friday.

The Sullivan Learning Center is one of eight leased sites throughout the state with a negative return on investment, he said. It is leased from Sullivan County Community Hospital.

The state board of trustees, rather than close those sites with negative ROIs, has asked the college to start a dialogue with those communities to see if they “want to step up,” Terp said.

The process has been a positive one, he said, and some of the communities involved are looking at ways to help Ivy Tech cover the negative gap, he said.

“We’ve begun that process in Sullivan,” he said.

Rene Hankins, Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley executive director of outreach, said an advisory committee has been formed in Sullivan that includes community leaders and  representation from the hospital, economic development leadership and education.

“It’s a great group of people. We’re trying to bring them in and help them understand how our organization operates,” she said.

Discussions focus not only on the lease but also how to get more students to use the center, she said. “How can we promote college as a whole within their community to help them get the workforce skills they need to attract industry in the Sullivan County area.”

The group will meet again next month. “We’ve had good conversations,” Hankins said.”

Terp said other communities have adjusted leases or fully funded lease costs.

Ivy Tech has not set a deadline on when the matter has to be resolved in Sullivan County, he said. The goal is for the site to break even financially or have a positive cash flow.

“They are committed. They know the future of their community is based on education attainment,” Terp said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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