By JEROD CLAPP
Increased enrollment, another record graduating class and continued growth at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg have kept the school going strong in the 2012-13 school year.
But even though Rita Hudson Shourds, chancellor, said enrollment could experience a dip for fall, she’s not worried about how next year is going to look for the campus.
“We’re very happy with where we ended [spring 2013],” Hudson Shourds said. “We think that for the most part, with the recession being primarily over and more people going back to work, we think we’re at a leveling-off period in terms of our enrollment. We know with a recession, people go back to school and vice versa.”
She said in comparison to spring enrollment in 2006 at about 3,500 students, that number has almost doubled, with more than 6,000 enrolled at the end of this past semester.
The numbers still hold up in year-over-year and semester-over-semester comparisons. In spring 2012, 5,805 students were enrolled and in fall 2012, 5,418 students were enrolled.
Hudson Shourds said she thought enrollment may stay close to where it is now for fall 2013, but the school will continue to work on getting more students through their doors.
“We think [enrollment’s] kind of where it is,” Hudson Shourds said. “You’ll see us continue to advertise. We continue to reach out to the high schools. We’ve had great reception from all the local school superintendents. We actually have, now, a college liaison in several of the high schools in Greater Clark and also in New Albany [Floyd County].”
But students in high school also count toward enrollment through the dual-credit program. Students in high school classes can earn credit, at no cost, to an Ivy Tech college.
Hudson Shourds said in the seven-county region her campus represents, that brings about 9,000 students on the books.
She also said online courses continue to become a more popular option, but they’re not for everyone.
“It really has become about meeting the student when and where they want to take classes, and that includes online classes,” Hudson Shourds said. “What we’re seeing is an increase of enrollment in our online offerings.”
She said while online classes offer greater flexibility for students, they really need to become self-motivators and remind themselves of due dates for assignments and projects, as well as assessments.
“Online is a little different than face-to-face,” Hudson Shourds said. “I think it attracts a different type of student. I think there are all kinds of misconceptions about online being easier … . I think over the next five years, you’ll see a lot of colleges taking a look at their online offerings and trying to improve upon the success of those students in terms of completion.”
But she said the campus still has plenty of room for increased enrollment in its classrooms if there should be another boost. However, she said the campus could stand an increase of student-services space, such as a gym for intramural sports, expanded tutoring space or other facilities.
“We’ve got classroom space, but we still need to take care of mind, body and soul for students,” Hudson Shourds said. “We consider ourselves to be in a constant state of a capital campaign; we’re always thinking about what that next building should be and what it should house.”
She said fundraising efforts continue and also go toward scholarships to keep students in school if money is a problem. She said overall, the state of the campus is just fine and she expects it will continue to stay that way for now.
“That has come as the result of a lot of hard work on the part of the faculty and staff, which shows the level of dedication that our people have to the success of our students,” Hudson Shourds said.
The Journal and Courier in Lafayette reported issues with the college’s funding, which has led to a study on whether to close 20 leased sites across the state.
Ivy Tech will receive nearly $60 million in new state funding, bringing the system’s total to nearly $500 million over the next two years, according to the Commission for Higher Education. The statewide community college system’s operating appropriation has grown more than 44 percent since 2006.
Funding levels started off strong — Ivy Tech saw funding levels of $3,248 per full-time student during the 2005-06 academic year — but quickly dropped as enrollment across the system skyrocketed after 2007.
Within two academic years, statewide enrollment had jumped 38 percent to 166,555 in 2009-10 as the recession drove unemployed Hoosiers to seek additional training. As Ivy Tech stretched state dollars, more students were seeking access to academic and remedial services.
During the 2011-12 academic year, each full-time equivalent student, meaning those who take 12 credit hours per semester, received $2,543 in state operation appropriations — roughly $1,000 less than the 2005 target.
State operating appropriations per real Ivy Tech student total $1,210 for the upcoming academic year, according to a calculation that factors in Ivy Tech’s 180,465-student enrollment figure during the last academic year. The Journal and Courier also reported state officials are worried about providing more funding because of concerns with graduation rates for the college statewide.