DOUG ROSS: Colleges need more state support

2013-04-19T00:00:00Z 2013-04-19T17:47:05Z DOUG ROSS: Colleges need more state supportDoug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Ivy Tech Community College has merged the large northwest and north central regions in a cost-cutting move. The university has a nearly $60 million funding gap, according to Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder.

Purdue University Calumet is eliminating some 50 academic-related positions to address a $4 million revenue shortfall.

And Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wants to cut income taxes 10 percent.

Do you see a problem here? I sure do.

Pence, like everyone else, sees postsecondary education as key to personal success in life and to attracting jobs to the state. Basically, workers have to be trained for the types of jobs that will become available.

The region's colleges and universities are a key player in this. But look at the budget shortfalls two of them are facing.

Purdue University Calumet has been a major player in promoting entrepreneurship at the Purdue Technology Center in Merrillville. The university also is helping industry through its water institute, the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation and more.

Ivy Tech launched the Society of Innovators, which honors entrepreneurs and others who apply knowledge in new and exciting ways. Many of these innovators are bringing additional jobs to the region.

Ivy Tech is the state's largest college system. As a community college, it trains students for careers that don't require four-year degrees and preparing other students for the rigors of schools like Purdue.

But state support for Ivy Tech, Purdue and other higher education institutions hasn't kept pace with rising costs.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, addressed that in her State of Higher Education Address earlier this year.

"Indiana must reverse a downward trend in state support by investing more in higher education in the next budget," she said. "Yes, there will be a cost associated with increasing degree production and education attainment levels, but we must pay for what we value to keep pace with the growing workforce demand for skilled college graduates."

Student debt is ballooning. Lubbers addressed that as well, noting the nation's outstanding student debt is even larger than its credit card debt. That's a big bubble to keep an eye on. 

"In Indiana, the average student debt upon graduation is more than $27,000, and our student loan default rate has increased by 35 percent over the past three years," Lubbers said.

No wonder, when state support hasn't kept pace.

A tax cut would be popular, but investing in higher education might pay off even more.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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