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PNW students analyze budget, education, COVID-19
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PNW students analyze budget, education, COVID-19

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Purdue University Northwest aerial

Purdue University Northwest's Hammond campus is seen from above.

Armed with data but no crystal ball, Purdue University Northwest economics students offered their analyses of the university budget, educational levels and the economy, and the impact of COVID-19 during an online research presentation this week.

“Their work is commendable,” said Dr. Amlan Mitra, professor of business economics and academic adviser.

Five members of the PNW Economics Club — Taylor J. Kroon, Farida Akhmadullina, Tyler Stoeger, Jake Dyrkacz and Herminio Serguei — offered their Zoom research presentation Wednesday, starting with the campus changing from an incremental budget to one that is incentive-based.

Citing the national trend in decreased college enrollment, the PNW group supports the change, expected to begin in 2022. The move goes from the traditional, centralized budget process to one that students said is flexible, accountable and rewards efficiency.

Students praised the new system as “an innovative approach to resource allotment” at PNW.

On the negative side, students said, incentive-based budgeting can create problems with competition between departments and communication issues. Students recommended increased support for college deans, whose roles will change from academics to include departmental management.

When asked about assessing academic offerings not doing as well as others, Stoeger said each college would have to evaluate programs and decide whether to keep, change  or drop them.

“The decision is at the college level,” Stoeger said. “It’s a trade-off, the price you pay for increased efficiency.”

Mitra said this preliminary research began in early February and the preliminary program was intended to show students’ progress.

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Students also reviewed the impact of COVID-19 globally, nationally and locally, focusing on Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties. COVID-19 led to the worst recession since 2008, their research showed. Lake County was the hardest hit, especially in unemployment figures, they said, due to its larger population and the number of businesses affected.

The pandemic has led to a “public health and economic crisis in the U.S.,” Stoeger said, “and Northwest Indiana has felt the pain,” including "a taxed hospital system.”

On educational inequalities, Kroon researched a seven-county area during 2016-2018. Her research included English speaking levels, special education, parents’ grade levels reached, graduation rates and standardized testing.

Kroon’s research found that sections of north Lake County and rural areas to the south did poorer academically. Communities where the average resident had at least a bachelor’s degree did better overall.

Mitra said students’ research will continue. “This is a beginning,” he said.

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