News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

September 2, 2012

MARK BENNETT: A growing Indiana State University creates a valuable asset for Terre Haute

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


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion Columns
  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Disc Jockeys

    I know this is going to sound a little like “sour grapes,” but it is not. I just passed my 61st anniversary of being involved in radio. I also spent some television time in Canada and did a local TV talk show. But, my main effort was in the good old USA in various radio markets.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Colonoscopy No. 5

    I just finished up my fifth colonoscopy last week. It had been seven years since my last one, and since my father and grandfather died of colon cancer I find it advisable to go through this procedure in attempting to live as long as I can.

    July 29, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Next century? Hope strikes out again for ‘our’ team

    It is a case of hope trumping experience that my Best Friend and I looked forward to the 2014 baseball season.

    July 28, 2014

  • baseballandnewspaper.jpg MARK BENNETT: Hall of Memories: Names, images of baseball greats trigger connections to our own past

    Baseball Hall of Famers are just people. Totally human. Still, for Americans who follow the national pastime, those players represent a nostalgic connection to summers gone by.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: The Czar of Russia

    If you are expecting Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Republic, to react to the crisis in the Ukraine as an ordinary elected official, think again. Even though Putin is the President of the Russian Republic, this is not the job he wants. Putin also doesn’t want to be the chairman of a newly resurrected Communist Party in Russia. No, what he wants is to be the czar of a greater Russia.

    July 24, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Dragonfly

    The other morning I was moving the canister that holds our recycling material out to the curb when I saw a strange sight. What I saw was a dragonfly fighting with a bee.

    July 22, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Chickens as pets always turned out same way

    I suppose many of us who grew up on farms or in small towns adopted unusual pets. I had a fondness for chickens. My folks always kept a few chickens, not only to fry or roast, but also for the eggs.

    July 21, 2014

  • LovellEdwards.JPG MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11

    The words “Apollo 11” stir optimism in me.
    I was an elementary school kid growing up in Vigo County when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon on July 20, 1969. So much seemed possible

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos 4 Stories

  • RONN MOTT: World Cup over, but it was fun

    After many weeks and many games, the World Cup is over. While the world calls it “futbol,” only we in North America play another brand of football. It is very simple to understand why this is the world’s favorite game … all it takes is an empty lot, a round soccer ball, and you can get a futbol game together.

    July 18, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Presidential Ambush

    No wild-west ambush, either real or fiction, has been as successful as the ambush on President Barack Obama.

    July 17, 2014

  • MET071614band.jpg MARK BENNETT: Are you ready for some oom-pah along the banks of the Wabash?

    Any time I hear Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” the sound transports me to 1973, when that classic song bubbled from my parents’ car radio on the drive to Sheridan Park for my youth football games.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Collett Park

    Saturday at the Park, Collett Park, another beautiful wedding was held. They looked so nice in the warm weather with the Gazebo acting as church sanctuary, I would almost be tempted myself to do it again, and do it outdoors at the Park. No, no, no, not again, even as pretty as it is in the Park on a nice July Saturday.

    July 15, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Lots we did not have in those good ol’ days

    In my thankful moments, I’m glad I was not my grandmother’s daughter. I would miss the modern conveniences.

    July 14, 2014

  • wefight.jpg MARK BENNETT: Filmmaker captures late uncle’s walk through illness and into ‘whatever is next’

    Paul Fleschner sensed a remarkable strength as he filmed his beloved uncle one final time.

    July 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • RONN MOTT: Troubled history in that place called Iraq

    People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.

    July 11, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: That Old Man River

    I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Black Dog

    We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
    There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.

    July 8, 2014

  • MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations

    Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”

    July 7, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson

    During this Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be reading John Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson.

    July 4, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country

    The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Cats

    Looking at the situation as a whole, the adopted cats, plus one, seem to be doing OK. The boys, Magic and Mellow, like to roam occasionally, which causes some consternation when they are gone for a long time.

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Oldtime fans will never give up on the Cubbies

    My Best Friend claims to be the world’s oldest living Cubs fan. I am willing to take him at his word, but surely there is some long-lived fan out there in the right field bleachers who would dispute his claim.

    June 30, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: These are tough times to be an opossum

    Who killed the opossum before man and the automobile? The automobile and mankind have started an evolutionary run on how the opossum continues his bloodline.

    June 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: These are tough times to be an opossum

    Who killed the opossum before man and the automobile? The automobile and mankind have started an evolutionary run on how the opossum continues his bloodline.

    June 27, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Teamwork

    Teamwork. You remember the drill. In the movie “Hoosiers,” the coach demanded four passes before anything else happened on the court. The idea of teamwork is you work toward a victory by making sure your self-interest doesn’t come before the team.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: World Cup

    I remember in junior high school, in physical education class, we were told to meet outside. The track and baseball diamond were in back of the school. We were met with a small, dimpled ball and the teacher told us it was soccer. It is played all over the world and you can use your head, your body and your feet, but not your hands. I decided then it was not a game for me.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • MS. TAKES: Words no one wants to hear: ‘At your age’

    The other evening, a friend limped into the dining room. Judging from the grimace, she was in some degree of pain, so I asked if she had fallen.

    June 23, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Great effort brings rewards

    I want to tip my hat to young David Fuson who has become the spokesperson for the family business.

    June 20, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Iraq, again

    Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, lifted into Heaven on a rock, on a hill, in Jerusalem. The binding of military might and strategies, and a religion that was meant for everyone, began to fall apart at that time in history.

    June 19, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Stanley Cup

    I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a proud American who wants to see the USA win just about everything — except the Stanley Cup.

    June 17, 2014 1 Photo

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010