Ivy Tech merges north central, northwest regions

2013-04-12T16:35:00Z 2013-04-14T00:27:11Z Ivy Tech merges north central, northwest regionsMARGARET FOSMOE South Bend Tribune nwitimes.com
April 12, 2013 4:35 pm  • 

SOUTH BEND | Ivy Tech Community College is merging its north central and northwest regions, and current North Central Regional Chancellor Thomas Coley will serve as chancellor for that larger, newly formed region.

The change is effective immediately.

The merger was approved by Ivy Tech’s state board of trustees at a meeting Thursday in Sellersburg, Ind., and announced in a news release Friday.

Ivy Tech employees were notified of the news in an email from Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder late Thursday afternoon.

The full effect on employees is unclear, and some employees are worried there may be layoffs because some positions now are duplicated in the new, larger region.

“The decision to consolidate administrative functions for the two regions was the result of a resolution passed by the board after a review of the potential efficiencies of consolidating the regions. The board also requested that the college develop a plan to reduce current operating expenses, including, but not limited to, the consolidation of additional regions, functional reorganizations and limiting student enrollment,” according to the written statement issued by the college.

Ivy Tech’s growth in recent years (47 percent in five years to nearly 177,000 students) has significantly outpaced its state funding, Snyder told employees in his email. “The college experienced record growth at a time when state funding was not able to keep up with the growth, thus creating a gap that has never been recovered. That gap was in excess of $40 million. We always want to keep tuition affordable so we never wanted to put the funding of such a gap on our students,” the president wrote.

The gap has increased to nearly $60 million, Snyder wrote. And projected state funding that Ivy Tech will receive during the next two years won’t match its operational needs, he wrote.

Until now, Ivy Tech had operated 14 regions throughout the state. The merger brings that number to 13 regions.

The current North Central region includes campuses in South Bend, Elkhart County and Warsaw, enrolling nearly 12,200 students a year. The current Northwest region includes campuses in Michigan City, Valparaiso, East Chicago and Gary, and enrolls more than 16,000 students a year.

The merger will create a large new mega-region for the college, covering the area from Kosciusko County in the east to the Illinois border in Lake County to the west.

Both existing regional boards of trustees will continue to function, according to college officials.

Coley has been north central regional chancellor since June 2011 and has been serving as interim chancellor of the northwest region since January, after that region’s previous chancellor retired. Coley has been splitting his time between the two regions.

“The whole idea of me taking the interim role was partly to assess moving in this direction (of merger),” Coley said Friday.

The first task will be examining and reorganizing the region’s overall administrative structure, he said. He said it’s not known if the merger will result in fewer employees.

“Everything is possible, Coley said. “We’re going to look at all options.”

The merger should have no impact on quality of service to students, he said.

David Brinkruff, dean of the School of Technology and the School of Applied Science & Engineering Technology for the north central region, said the merger may help Ivy Tech better serve northern Indiana. It will erase the “invisible line” that now exists at the St. Joseph-LaPorte County line, he said.

Ivy Tech employees in this region already serve some employers in the northwest region, Brinkruff said. He cited a company in Valparaiso that is interested in potential employees who are training at Ivy Tech’s high-tech machine lab in Warsaw.

“We still have the same customer — the student,” he said.

Ivy Tech has limited its enrollment in recent years in some high demand programs, including nursing and welding.

“We are limited in the number of students we can accept into the (nursing) program because we must have faculty with specific qualifications and it is a competitive market for such faculty," Jeff Fanter, Ivy Tech’s statewide vice president for communications, said via email. "Limited funding creates a challenge in recruiting and sometimes retaining such faculty. Thus the number of student slots for the programs becomes limited.”

The welding program also may continue enrollment limits because of an inability to expand training locations, which require laboratory space, Fanter said.

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