News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 11, 2011

ISU won’t get prison contract renewal

State’s goal is to have more vocational focus

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University says its contract to provide associate- and bachelor’s degree programs at four state prison facilities will be canceled.

The university expects a letter this week, said Jack Maynard, ISU provost. “This has been under discussion for quite a while,” he said.

ISU has a contract with the Indiana Department of Correction to provide associate- and bachelor’s degree programs at four state prison facilities: Wabash Valley-Carlisle, Plainfield, Putnamville and Rockville. Most of the course work is at the associate degree level.

In a typical year, ISU has had about 400 student-inmates at five institutions, including the federal prison in Terre Haute, said Ken Brauchle, ISU dean of extended learning.

It also has employed about 60 instructors, mostly part-time, to teach the courses. Cancellation of the contract could mean a reduction in the number of classes those adjuncts teach, and some employees could lose their jobs.

The program also has three coordinators.

About two weeks ago, ISU officials attended a meeting that included representatives of the State Student Assistance Commission; IDOC and Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

“They told us they would cancel our current contract and they would issue a new request for proposals,” Maynard said. Some other Indiana colleges also are affected.

In the future, the state’s goal is for programs to have a vocational focus so that when inmates leave prison, they will be more employable, Maynard said.

“It makes sense. You can’t argue with the logic,” he said.

ISU is hoping for a “phase-out” component so that those student/inmates within a year of completing degrees would be able to do so. “We don’t have details,” he said.

ISU has been told it will receive two letters, a cancellation of the current contract and the request for proposals.

It’s his understanding that less money will be available for the education of student/inmates in Indiana, he said.

The program has not produced a lot of revenue for ISU, he said. “It’s not a place we ever made money,” he said, “but there is a moral obligation” to educate inmates and hopefully help reduce recidivism rates.

In recent years, the university has “just about broken even” offering the program, he said. 

The cancellation means “a few less students” in headcount, he said.

If ISU has the opportunity to continue providing the educational services and can at least break even, “We may do that,” Maynard said.

He noted that ISU doesn’t offer many two-year programs because those are now provided by Ivy Tech Community College.

Contacted Tuesday afternoon, the Indiana Department of Correction did not immediately respond to requests for further information.

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

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