PUC faces $4 million deficit, will close learning center

2013-03-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-09T17:29:28Z PUC faces $4 million deficit, will close learning centerCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Purdue University Calumet is facing a $4 million shortfall this year, and will close the Academic Learning Center in Merrillville and is considering closing the Charlotte R. Riley Child Center at the Hammond campus.

PUC spokesman Wes Lukoshus said the university will not accept students this fall at the Academic Learning Center while it determines what to do with the $9.1 million facility it opened to much fanfare in 2005.

"President (Mitch) Daniels is aware of the situation," Lukoshus said. "The chancellor will make a decision. We are not doing anything without West Lafayette being aware. President Daniels is aware of the planning and pondering that we are pursuing and the issues that we are dealing with."

Lukoshus said full-time enrollment is down, causing revenue to decline, and the university is looking at many variables, including facilities, programs and faculty positions.

"We're trying to be as efficient as possible and looking at ways to save money," he said. "We're facing a $4 million deficit for 2013. We will finish the year OK, but we must look at the start of the next academic school year. Our expenses are not matching our revenue. Our revenue is down. We have fewer full-time students, and they go a long way in generating the budget."

Lukoshus said the university is committed to implementing an enrollment management plan that is more strategically geared to attracting more full-time, degree-persistent students.

"Additionally, we are attempting to develop more partnerships and revenue sources that will help support our transition into the type of progressive, value-added, cost-effective regional university the Purdue system and the state of Indiana desires Purdue Calumet to be," he said.

"In short, we must make necessary adjustments so that our expenses match our reduced revenue. We believe the most prudent way to increase our revenue is to attract more full-time, qualified students who are intent on earning a Purdue degree at Purdue Calumet."

Student enrollment

The total number of students in fall 2012 was 10,054, with 5,245 full-time students. That's compared to the previous year's total enrollment of 9,786 and 5,926 full-time students; though the overall number of students grew, PUC lost more than 11 percent of its full-time students.

Unfortunately, Lukoshus said, university officials don't have a good idea of where those students went.

"We need to do a better job of keeping track of them," he said. "We understand the economy may have played a role, but to what extent we don't know."

Lukoshus said other issues that complicate the university's economic picture is the fact that local universities no longer offer associate degree programs. He said the regional campuses discontinued that practice, allowing Ivy Tech Community College Northwest to offer associate programs and remedial education, both of which were moneymakers for Purdue Calumet.

Another component of Purdue Calumet's decreased revenue is the changing nature of the student body. Lukoshus said students are enrolled in 101,674 hours, with more than 86,000 hours in academic programs and the remainder in academic outreach programs, which generate less state reimbursement. 

Academic outreach programs include the MBA for Executives on Saturday program, the online program and the high school dual-credit programs.

"The return from the state is not the same for students in the academic outreach programs, and all of that contributes to less revenue," Lukoshus said. "We must focus on increasing the number of students who are enrolled full time and restructuring our programs to attract those students."

Academic Learning Center

The $9.1 million Academic Learning Center in Merrillville opened with much hoopla in 2005 and was intended to be a feeder to the Hammond campus.

It offers 20 state-of-the-art, technology-enhanced classrooms with multimedia capability, four computer labs, two student study areas, four small conference rooms, an on-site resource center with access to Purdue Calumet's library and a fitness center.

Chancellor Thomas Keon said that since fall 2008, enrollment has declined from 1,406 students to 476 students last fall, and the vast majority of students have taken no more than one class. "We can save $280,000 in annual operating costs by not offering classes," he said.

The 48,000-square-foot, two-story facility was supposed to be a feeder facility to Purdue Calumet's Hammond campus, Lukoshus reiterated. The classes that are offered at the learning center are 100- and 200-level classes, primarily to freshmen and sophomores.

"The idea was that students would start at the academic learning center and they'd get a strong experience in a growing south Lake County area," he said. "It would be a convenient way to start their education and they would eventually finish their education at the Hammond campus, but it hasn't worked out that way. It hasn't grown in the manner that we thought it would."

He also said the university expected to attract 1,500 to 2,000 students annually to the Merrillville facility, but that never happened. In fact, enrollment declined every year.

Lukoshus said Purdue issued a bond to construct the learning center and pays an annual amount of $560,000.

In addition to Purdue Calumet, Indiana University Northwest also offers classes to students at the learning center. It also will discontinue offering classes next fall.

Charlotte R. Riley Child Care Center

The child care center was established many years ago and operates under the supervision of the Department of Behavioral Sciences. The Child Center is a combination program that provides preschool, kindergarten, child care services and summer programs.

It was built to provide child care for faculty, staff, students and the community. It also provides lab experience and training for students interested in early childhood education, elementary education, nursing, psychology and dietary studies.

However, Lukoshus said there are few students, faculty and staff whose children use the center. 

"It's only at 50 percent capacity," Lukoshus said. "It's been operating at a deficit for the past several years between $40,000 to $60,000 a year and that doesn't speak to the utilities cost."

The center was originally located in Porter Hall; it now is housed in its own 7,000-square-foot facility, south of 173rd Street near the Fitness and Recreation Building.

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