Ivy Tech visit

Ivy Tech president Sue Ellspermann stands with chancellor Rita Shourds in Ogle Hall on Tuesday. Ellspermann visited the campus as part of her tour across the state. 

SELLERSBURG — As part of her tour of all 14 regions for the college, Ivy Tech’s new president, former state Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, said she’s got more to praise than worry about at the Sellersburg campus.

The college has faced new challenges in the last couple of years, including a drop in system-wide enrollment. Ellspermann said some of the strategies employed in Sellersburg could work on a bigger scale for Ivy Tech.

“As a college, one of the challenges we have right now is that as the job market has gotten strong, those students who were just walking in our front door are no longer walking in at the same numbers,” Ellspermann said. “I think we’ll have more deliberate efforts and I think this region has done this with their K-12 partnerships and having a recruiter go into the high schools to make sure students know what’s available at Ivy Tech.”

The economic downturn was a boon for enrollment at Ivy Tech, especially as non-traditional college students were looking to improve or change their skill sets for jobs. While the improving economy was good news, she said, the colleges have to look at strategies to double or triple enrollment.

She said other local programs at the Sellersburg campus are helping, though. This summer, elementary students in the region are attending the college’s Kids’ College event, where they can take a number of classes with a focus on fun. She said getting young children exposure to that kind of environment is definitely a plus.

She also said Ivy Tech suffers from the stigmas that come with community colleges. Often viewed only as offering vocational skills, Ellspermann said the entire system needs to work on showing potential students that Ivy Tech is great way to knock out prerequisite classes for less money before transferring to other institutions.

She said the reciprocity agreement in the Louisville Metro area — which allows some Kentucky students to attend Southern Indiana institutions at in-state tuition rates — is also a big help locally.

The state has also taken a hard look at how many students in Indiana colleges and universities finish their degrees, a measure called persistence. Ellspermann said students who go to Ivy Tech aren’t always seeking degrees from the college, but that doesn’t mean they’re not successful.

“Today, the state measures two-year, four-year, six-year graduation rates,” Ellspermann said. “On that metric, it doesn’t look like we’re doing a good job, but the question is, is it the right metric?”

She said she hopes to work with the college’s staff to develop a new metric of student success within a year. She said that would be based on what a student’s own goals are and whether they met them in the time they selected. She said people who are attending college part time have very different ideas of their own success than a full-time student straight out of high school.

But between the campus, the staff, the fundraising and development efforts on campus and other facets, Ivy Tech in Sellersburg is a feather in the cap of the whole system.

“This is campus number six across the state I’ve had the chance to tour thoroughly,” Ellspermann said. “I’ll be surprised if we can find many that will be stronger than this.”

I'm the education reporter for the News and Tribune, covering four public school districts, private and charter schools, local universities and education programs in Clark and Floyd counties. Send story ideas my way!

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