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November 6, 2013

Purdue President Daniels: Southern Indiana 'poised to grow'

Says Purdue's New Albany campus can play role in economic expansion

JEFFERSONVILLE — Though his speech focused on how Purdue University’s campus in West Lafayette can contribute to the state’s economy, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said New Albany’s regional campus has a lot to offer as Southern Indiana expands business growth opportunities.

The former Indiana governor said as the world continues to best the United States in key economic growth sectors, he hopes to be a part of bringing the country back to the top.

“The U.S. is slipping behind,” Daniels said as he met with the Purdue Alumni Club of Falls Cities on Tuesday at Kye’s in Jeffersonville. “We don’t have enough engineers, we don’t have enough technicians, we don’t have enough scientists, we don’t have enough people who can lead businesses. Purdue University intends to be a big part of the answer to that problem.”

Daniels talked some about one of his most recent initiatives, Purdue Moves. Included with that is the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, which focuses on expanding student knowledge bases in technology education innovation and transformation, accelerating innovation for industry and application-oriented research.

Andrew Takami, director of the Purdue University College of Technology in New Albany, said since the Polytechnic Institute is a part of Daniels’ initiatives, Southern Indiana’s campus fits squarely into his statewide plans.

“The Polytechnic Institute is a way to talk about funded engagement, sponsored projects and internships,” Takami said. “It’s something the president is very excited about as he moves into the end of his first year in making major things happen. That’s one of the ways that the Purdue College of Technology at New Albany fits into the greater mission.”

Daniels said Southern Indiana strives to foster economic growth, and he’s excited to see how Purdue can fill some of the coming business needs through its regional campus in New Albany.

“I’m very upbeat about this particular area because I believe that the economy here is poised to grow,” Daniels said. “The bridges, River Ridge, all these things we’ve thought about for years, I think they’re about to really blossom. And if so, there will be new needs in this local economy that I hope we’ll be a part of fulfilling.”

But as college affordability questions were fielded, Daniels said the home campus has worked at making sure students feel like they can afford a Purdue degree.

He said since the campus runs on a fiscal calendar that begins in July, it’s difficult to tell how some of those cost-cutting initiatives have affected perceptions. But so far, he said it looks as though it’s creating some positive buzz.

Through freezing tuition while other institutions continue to raise theirs statewide and even cutting the costs of food on campus, Daniels said he thinks it’s giving potential students confidence in committing their dollars to Purdue.

“It’s not that all our other activities aren’t important, of course they are,” Daniels said. “If we’re going to be the kind of place that students from anywhere can afford to go to, we’re going to have to raise some more dollars and make them available to some of these young people. We lose some good students for that reason only, great students who would love to come to Purdue, but somebody somewhere makes them an offer they just can’t refuse.”

But Takami said the same message applies locally. Though the College of Technology offers Purdue degrees at a lower price point, he said it’s important to keep offering educational opportunities to Hoosiers in the area. But that doesn’t end with offering tuition dollars.

“One of the main initiatives I have locally is to create a tradition of philanthropy,” Takami said. “Scholarships are absolutely critical, but so is funding for degree programs, so is funding for equipment. We are very grateful for scholarships from new donors.”

He said the Clark County REMC, Falls Cities Alumni Club and other organizations offer scholarships locally, but he’s working on more. He also said as word gets out about the local campus, he hopes to double enrollment in all their academic programs, add more degree programs at the bachelor and masters level and create a tradition of philanthropy.

Takami said he’s excited to see what roles his campus can play in Southern Indiana’s growth. But to make that happen, he said he plans to reach out to Purdue alumni from all over the state.

“It’s great for me when we can partner with alumni from West Lafayette at events like this because we can be their home away from home,” Takami said. “That’s one thing I always try to emphasize because we can bring in elements of West Lafayette to New Albany.”

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