GUEST COMMENTARY: Transformation is work in progress for Purdue Calumet

2013-04-30T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Transformation is work in progress for Purdue CalumetThomas Keon nwitimes.com
April 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Times’ recent report that Purdue University Calumet is experiencing a $4 million revenue shortfall should not be construed as doom and gloom, but rather a transitional ache and pain of a changing student market.

What our university is experiencing is comparable to McDonald’s introducing salads to satisfy health-conscious consumers.

Since the state redefined our role from that of an all-purpose community campus to a regional university focused exclusively on producing baccalaureate and master’s degree graduates, we have learned a valuable lesson. We must embrace change and appeal to a changing student market. Our ability to understand our changing environment and aggressively attract students within it will define our success.

We also must acknowledge our need to change the manner in which we recruit students, serve them and help enable them to succeed in earning a Purdue degree at our campus.

At the same time, the blanketing catalyst of our efforts must be academic excellence. We must convince the students we seek to attract that Purdue Calumet offers the education they want and that it has value over other institutions.

Frankly, our ability to do all that has been a work in progress. Add the lingering effects of economic stagnation, and we have a Purdue Calumet that has yet to catch up with its redefined environment.

Our emergence as a university specifically charged with increasing the pool of Indiana bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates, in lieu of our former status of trying to serve the educational needs of everybody, is appropriate for Purdue Calumet.

Similarly, Ivy Tech has assumed responsibility for educating Northwest Indiana students who are not yet college/university ready. This, too, is an important, positive change.

As Purdue Calumet moves forward, we recognize we offer a degree that is world-respected. The tuition our students pay is competitive to that of other Indiana colleges and universities. Value and affordability, we believe, will go a long way in driving the transformation of Purdue Calumet. Meantime, we have work to do.

Today, a Purdue degree at Purdue Calumet is available to qualified transfer students and college/university-ready high school graduates. When the state redefined our role, we also took steps to better position ourselves for our new responsibilities by incrementally increasing our minimum admission standards over several years. Whereas four years ago we rejected 40 applicants for failing to qualify for admission, the total grew to some 1,200 this academic year. That explains in part our $4 million shortfall.

So recruiting ambitious, full-time students who value the education we deliver and are intent on earning their Purdue degree on time on our campus is essential to a successful Purdue Calumet transformation. 

We also are scrutinizing all aspects of our campus operation. Hand in hand with value and affordability, we must provide outstanding service to and opportunities for our students — current and prospective — to help them succeed.

Doing all that will enable Purdue Calumet to realize its vision as a university of choice that effectively connects with its changing student market.

Thomas L. Keon is the chancellor of Purdue University Calumet. The opinions are the writer's.

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