TERRE HAUTE —
A wise NFL team plays to its strength.
Last season’s most run-reliant club in the league, the Denver Broncos, hired as its quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL’s most prolific passer.
It’s safe to say, the Broncos will throw the ball more often this season, if they intend to capitalize on Manning’s arm, smarts and talent. Going status-quo — having a 4,000-yards-a-year passer hand off over and over simply because “that’s what we do in Denver” — would be a waste.
Likewise, in the race for economic vitality, wise communities follow a similar strategy by growing through their strongest assets. A promising announcement last week reaffirmed a stark reality for Terre Haute — Indiana State University’s student body is growing, and will likely continue to grow for several more years, and the city should not be shy about riding that horse, or bronco (pardon the pun).
ISU is clearly an ace-in-the-hole for Terre Haute, with staying power.
This fall, university’s overall enrollment has climbed to 12,114. That’s up 5 percent from last fall.
It marks the third consecutive year of significant increases in student headcounts. Three years ago, ISU President Dan Bradley set a goal to hit the 12,000 mark by 2014, which amounted to a 14-percent jump over the 2009 enrollment. Thanks to a Herculean, tense, exhaustive effort by faculty, staffers, administrators and students, ISU topped that benchmark two years early, despite operating under intensified accountability measures and restricted funding by the state. The last time ISU had 12,000 students was 1993.
Impressive and admirable.
The feat represents a reversal of fate. Just a decade ago, the university’s enrollment was dropping steadily and its niche among Indiana’s public colleges got murky. Now, after surpassing the enrollment target in its comeback, ISU is recalculating. Bradley has asked administrators to present a new enrollment benchmark for 2017 to the board of trustees at this week’s meeting, said Teresa Exline, Bradley’s chief of staff.
That goal could be 14,000, John Beacon — ISU’s vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communication — suggested Thursday.
In its 147-year history, ISU has never had a student body of 14,000. Its peak came in 1971, with 13,533.
“It’s a place where people want to be,” Beacon said of ISU in an interview with the Tribune-Star’s Sue Loughlin on the day of the announcement.
It’s a source of vigor in an era when Terre Haute needs it. An entity in such a busy state stands out here. Among the state’s 13 metropolitan statistical areas, the Terre Haute MSA (which includes Vigo, Clay, Sullivan and Vermillion counties) holds the highest unemployment rate, 10.5 percent in July. Of the 372 metros in America, only 49 have higher jobless rates than Terre Haute. The July unemployment rate within the city itself is even higher, 11.2. By contrast, the overall unemployment rate for the state is 8.3 percent, and the nation’s is 8.6.
On top of that, two crucial segments of our local population crucial to any hopes of growth — prime working-age (35 to 44) adults, and school-age kids — are shrinking. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, Vigo County saw its 5-to-18 population drop by 1,401 (while the U.S. numbers increased) and its 35-to-44 sector decrease by 1,863 (a number even more surprising, considering the county added 1,487 federal inmates, many of which fall in that 35-to-44 group).
To grow and prosper, Terre Haute needs more of those working-family-age residents. ISU already is growing and determined to continue that growth. The community has forever wrestled with the notion of functioning as a college-town. If ever there was an appropriate moment to embrace that possibility, now is it. Among numerous plans, ISU wants to expand its student housing into the downtown, with 600 student beds located above retail spaces around Wabash Avenue. That venture involves ISU, a private developer and property owners, five historic buildings, and the question of whether to renovate or build anew on those sites.
Whatever the decision, Terre Haute is blessed just to be considering it. Most American cities would envy the economic and cultural potential of having a 14,000-student public university, along with the nation’s best engineering school, a historic women’s college, a bustling community college, and a business college.
To arrive at this point, ISU had to solidify its status among potential students. As its enrollment flatlined and then began dropping, some other Indiana public colleges grew. “In the meantime, schools like Ball State were very, very aggressive,” Beacon said. Through myriad efforts, the university retooled its image in those students’ eyes from a safe backup choice to a primary destination. “If we have niche, I think it’s that solid B-plus/A-minus student who’s a good citizen,” Beacon added.
The market for students is competitive. Ball State and ISU, for example, once had similar enrollments. ISU hit 10,529 in 1966, a year after Ball State totaled 10,066 students. In 2011-12, Ball State had 22,147 undergrad and graduate students. As ISU has played catch-up, its reputation has firmed up. “Each year we grow, we’re convincing more people,” Beacon said.
ISU faces strong challenges, including state funding based on four-year and six-year graduation rates, two areas the university wants and needs to improve upon. Nonetheless, with initiatives like its four-year Sycamore Graduation Guarantee (in which ISU promises to cover the cost of extra courses needed beyond the fourth year for students who meet guidelines), Indiana State is taking on those challenges aggressively.
That’s a strength to play to, for Terre Haute.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
A wise NFL team plays to its strength.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
MARK BENNETT: We are Hauteans (ho-shuns)
I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
MARK BENNETT: Lesson in the Test
ISTEP is important, but it should not be predominant.
MARK BENNETT: Commencement Advice
Today’s high school commencement speakers should repeat their speeches in hospital delivery rooms in the months ahead.
MARK BENNETT: American nurses, medics, stranded behind Nazi lines, survived through tenacity, heroism, generosity
A story of survival, perseverance, danger, and extraordinary courage and generosity extended in the midst of war remained untold for decades, but thankfully not forever.
Mark Bennett: High-profile mural connects historical dots from city to river
At 96 feet wide and 2 stories tall, the power, impact and value of the Wabash will be evident.
MARK BENNETT: Life at face value: Mom’s simple advice still presents a valuable daily challenge
Most moms don’t base their advice on scientific research.
(Unless, of course, your mother is a scientific researcher. If so, carry a No. 2 pencil and take good notes.)
MARK BENNETT: Should I stay or should I go?
Some have their Bill Clinton-era Cavalier packed (with the trunk bungee-ed shut), apartment cleaned (except for the fridge), and iPhone GPS locked onto the fastest route out of Terre Haute. Others are staying — until they find a better job, or because they’re starting a career here, or because this town feels like home. In each case, a new stage of life begins today.
College Class of '13 gets a little extra advice
Local college grads will hear commencement speakers offer life and career advice this month. We’re offering them an extra dose here from folks who’ve found success in various vocations and regions of the nation. Many have Terre Haute roots.
MARK BENNETT: Spirited response to a rising river
The power within the Wabash revealed itself last week.
MARK BENNETT: Littered with irony: Why do people callously discard their trash, and who are they?
Though they aren’t acknowledged by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are basically two demographic groups of people … Those who would dump their old toilet on the banks of the Wabash River or a rural roadside. And those who wouldn’t.
MARK BENNETT: Performing under the radar: Toiling for years behind the scenes, Terre Haute native J.T. Corenflos finally earned a splash of musical recognition
People who diligently work to make others shine are a rare breed.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer