Ivy Tech wrestles with $68M deficit

2013-06-10T00:00:00Z 2013-06-10T18:24:10Z Ivy Tech wrestles with $68M deficitCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

Facing a $68 million deficit, Ivy Tech Community College is holding off on a plan to collaborate with the Tri-Creek Community School Corp. for a Learning Center in Lowell.

That measure is among other possible actions meant to consolidate operations and save money. 

The state's community college system is considering shutting down campuses or classes at several learning centers around the state, including Portage, which has an enrollment of only 155 students. College leaders have formed a committee to look at its leased facilities, where it gets no state support, and how to reduce its overall operations.

Tri-Creek and Ivy Tech have been collaborating for a year to provide training to high school and adult students in technical and vocational programs for students in south Lake County.

That also includes increasing dual-credit courses for high school students, and career and technical course opportunities. The plans for the facility called for a welding lab and a flex lab for advanced manufacturing, Steelworker of the Future Program, and electrical and mechanical courses.

The building's timeline called for construction to begin in August 2013 and completed a year later. However, officials at Tri-Creek and Ivy Tech want to ensure thoughtful stewardship of taxpayer funds, Ivy Tech officials said Thursday. Because Ivy Tech needs to seek state approval for the learning center, it has decided to slow the process and extend the timeline.

Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said the college needs about $1.5 million of capital equipment, including welding and medical items. The college also intended to invest more than $1 million in operational dollars during the first three years of operation, Fanter said. As a result, the final timeline has not been established, he said.

Tri-Creek Superintendent Debra Howe said it was a "mutual decision" and a "wise decision."

The cost of the Learning Center is less than $12 million and is considered a Tri-Creek School Corp. facility, Howe said.

"The Tri-Creek School Corp. has gone through the preliminary determination with public support for the project," she said. "A little over half of the building has been designed with Ivy Tech input and specifications. The Ivy Tech portion contains four classrooms, a computer lab, science lab, welding lab and flex lab."

In other cost-cutting measures, Fanter said Ivy Tech has put together a committee to review its facilities, including capital needs and resources. Ivy Tech trustees meet next week to consider the potential closings.

Ivy Tech began experiencing financial pressures when it became a statewide community college system in 2005, providing associate degrees and offering dual-credit and remediation classes.

Ivy Tech leases space at University Center in Portage where other regional colleges and universities also offer classes. Portage officials said Thursday they were not aware the college was considering pulling out of that facility, and would not have a comment until they heard directly from Ivy Tech.

Fanter emphasized no decisions have been made, and that the committee is just now forming. He said college officials would continue having discussions with leaders across the state because Ivy Tech plays a crucial role in Gov. Mike Pence’s agenda targeting the development of an educated and skilled workforce.

Two months ago, the college finalized another cost-cutting measure when it consolidated two northern Indiana regions -- Northwest Indiana and North Central Indiana.

The Northwest Indiana region includes the campuses of Gary, East Chicago, Valparaiso and Michigan City. The North Central region includes campuses in South Bend, Goshen and Warsaw.

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