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January 30, 2013

Ivy Tech-WV enrollment plunge leads to belt tightening

TERRE HAUTE — Enrollment at Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley dropped 8.2 percent last fall, prompting budget cuts and program evaluation.

Student headcount was 5,571 compared with 6,073 in fall 2011.

Enrollment has leveled off this spring and is comparable to last year, said Ann Valentine, Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley chancellor.

The enrollment drop translates into about $1 million in lost revenue, so the college implemented $300,000 in budget cuts and found other ways to save money. When vacancies occurred, those positions were not filled, she said.

Supply-expense accounts and travel budgets also were cut.

No layoffs occurred, said Charles Rubey, executive director for finance, but “we really tightened our belts.”

The cuts have been “relatively painless,” Valentine said, but if the enrollment significantly declines again, or the Legislature makes funding cuts, “then we would have a more serious situation.”

The region implemented cost-saving measures to be proactive and to ensure it is financially healthy going into the next fiscal year, Valentine said.

Statewide, some regions were down significantly last fall, some were flat and others  — including Indianapolis and Gary — were up in enrollment, Valentine said. “We were in the middle for enrollment drops,” she said.

When the economy improves, enrollment at community colleges tends to go down, and when the economy worsens, enrollments tend to go up, she said.

With the economy improving, “we know that students in particular programs are recruited directly into jobs before completing their degrees,” she said. “Manufacturers in our region have a serious need for skilled workers now.”

Students in automotive programs are among those being recruited for jobs before they have completed degrees, she said.

There are other factors in the enrollment drop. For a few years, federal stimulus funding and Workforce Investment funds were available to community colleges to assist long-term unemployed. Those funds are now gone, she said.

The college continues to evaluate programming and hopes to offer new ones, such as engineering technology and a program to train energy technicians. The energy program would train workers for jobs at utility companies.

The region also has made investments in technology and high-tech classrooms and plans to revamp the library at the main campus this spring.

“We hope we’re on the right track so we don’t have the same kind of drop” next fall, Valentine said.

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

 

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