It has taken 50 years for the campus of Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne to become the major institution it is, with about 10,000 students enrolled as of last fall. It is going to take a while longer for questions of IPFW’s governance to be resolved.
“Of course we want to get something done sooner than later…but this community has been working on this for decades at least,” said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, which commissioned a study of campus governance released last August. “It certainly warrants taking the time to get to the right answer. Everybody’s in a hurry but let’s take the time to work through this in a thoughtful way.”
The Indiana Commission on Higher Education met Feb. 12 to discuss the governance of the Fort Wayne campus. It was a working meeting to present the issues and the options, and no decision was made. The topic will not be up for deliberation until the commission’s meeting in May.
IPFW is managed by Purdue and is allowed no more autonomy than its other regional campuses, despite being the fifth largest college campus in the state. The partnership’s study suggested IPFW would be better off managed by IU, as is Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis.
IUPUI also is designated as a “metropolitan campus,” which gives it a greater degree of decision-making capability. The Indiana higher education commission has the power to confer the same designation on IPFW, without the need for legislative approval.
Since the release of the partnership’s study, discussions of the issue have taken place on several fronts, noted John Stafford, coauthor of the report.
Last fall, IU and Purdue each appointed senior-level executives to explore “what a transfer in governance might look like,” said Purdue’s representative, Julie Griffith, vice president of public affairs. She and Mike Sample, IU’s vice president for public affairs, met with administrators and faculty at IPFW in October. They did not make any joint recommendations, but Griffith authored a report, from Purdue’s perspective, outlining the issues a transfer would raise.
“It is not an insignificant thing,” Griffiths said. “It would take a long time.”
Purdue has managed the IPFW campus since its founding in 1964, and departments such as human resources, for example, function very differently at the two universities, she said.
Griffith’s report went to Purdue President Mitch Daniels as well as to the state’s higher education commissioner, Teresa Lubbers.
In January, Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, introduced a bill in the Indiana Legislature that would compel the higher ed commission to change IPFW’s designation to that of a metropolitan campus. The bill was assigned to the education committee but has not received a hearing.
Just about a week later, on Jan. 30, Purdue President Mitch Daniels surprised many by formally proposing the commission change IPFW’s status to “metropolitan university.”
“I really don’t know why he did what he did, all of a sudden,” Stafford said.
“No one expected that,” Sampson agreed.
Whether her report was a factor in Daniels’ proposal, “I could not say,” Griffiths added.
IPFW has consistently lagged most of the state’s other institutions of higher education in terms of per-capita funding for students, ranking down around 13th of 15 campuses. The partnership’s study also proposed that:
• Indiana’s performance funding metrics be adjusted to recognize students at regional campuses have different degree paths than at the parent campuses;
• IPFW engage in a re-engineering process to better align programs with student and work-force needs;
• The importance of degree completion be emphasized; and
• The engagement between IPFW and the local business community be strengthened, increasing the involvement of the university’s Community Advisory Council in determining its strategic direction.
“I think that the only position we can have now is to keep our options open” Sampson said Feb. 16 following a meeting with Teresa Lubbers, the state’s commissioner for higher education. “We don’t have a specific answer yet. We have more than one option to consider.”
The partnership’s study provided a lot of insight, but there is still additional homework to be done, Sampson added.
“None of us expected to be in this position, but the good thing is it’s always been true that if we’re prepared, and an opportunity comes along, we can respond to it,” he said. “And that’s exactly where we’re at. Exactly where we need to be as a community.”