MUNSTER | Northwest Indiana's two regional Purdue University campuses are likely to come under scrutiny in January when Gov. Mitch Daniels takes over as Purdue's president.
In an interview last week with The Times' Editorial Board, Daniels seemed skeptical about maintaining separate Purdue campuses in Hammond and Westville -- just 34 miles apart.
"What are we doing with two of them that close together?" Daniels asked. "If you started anew, you probably wouldn't draw it up that way, but here we are, so what's the right thing to do? Is it just continue on or look for some other arrangement?"
The governor said he's going into his new job with no predispositions about what should be done concerning the region's Purdue campuses.
"We'll see," he said. "There's some really good people at both places; I like the folks who lead these places."
Besides the campuses, which Daniels said he's visited recently, the president-to-be said he's especially concerned about the low graduation rates at both schools compared to the main West Lafayette campus, where 70 percent of students graduate in six years.
At Purdue North Central, just 7 percent of students graduate in four years with 23 percent graduating in six years, including those students who begin coursework at PNC but complete their degree elsewhere.
The six-year graduation rate at Purdue Calumet is 28 percent.
Daniels said that needs to improve for the good of the university and its students.
"Some kids run up some bills and don't even get through," he said.
The governor was elected Purdue president by the university's board of trustees in June. He'll officially take over when his term in the Statehouse ends Jan. 14.
Daniels told The Times he didn't seek the job by approaching Purdue board members, a majority of whom he appointed. He said the board came to him and told him Purdue students, faculty and alumni wanted Daniels to run their school.
Even then, on at least two occasions, Daniels said he seriously considered turning them down.
"But I never could pull that trigger because I'd get thinking about what a great place it is, how well it fits our needs as a state and a nation and how, if things got even better there, that would be a useful thing to do," he said. "I just finally decided, 'OK, maybe we should give this a try.' "
Whenever his duties as governor allow it, Daniels said he's been learning all he can about Purdue and higher education in general. Daniels holds a law degree from Georgetown University and earned a bachelor's degree at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs.
"I know there's some students on that campus studying harder than I am, but not very many," Daniels said of preparing for his new position.
As for a future in politics, perhaps following Wilson who was president of Princeton before becoming president of the United States, Daniels, 63, seemed to rule that out.
"Purdue may change their mind but if they don't, I feel that this will be my last full-time job," he said.