Ivy Tech aims to give more degrees

January 8th, 2018

The Journal Gazette

An Indiana community college system is working to double the number of degrees and credentials it awards annually over the next five years.

Ivy Tech Community College officials also hope to boost enrollment rates statewide by more than 25 percent by 2023, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

“That's a big lift,” Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said. “That's what Indiana needs us to do.”

Ellspermann said the plan, which is launching next week, is designed to increase Indiana's available workforce for the anticipated 1 million jobs that'll be open by 2025. Specifically, the system aims to increase annual student completions from about 21,000 to 50,000 and increase enrollment from about 94,000 to 120,000 students by 2023.

Ellspermann's predecessor faced scrutiny for low graduation rates and declining enrollment.

One challenge Ivy Tech faces stems from the state's low unemployment rate. The rate is currently about 3.7 percent.

“We know how difficult it is to recruit students when they're already fully employed,” Ellspermann said.

The school is looking to recruit from new areas, such as the Department of Corrections to train ex-offenders. School officials are also targeting groups like the parents of the state's 21st Century Scholars, who are mostly first-generation college students.

But Ivy Tech officials are also focusing on graduating the students already enrolled. The school's completion rate is low, with just 7.9 percent of students graduating on time within two years. Almost 28 percent of students graduate within six years.

“It doesn't matter how many students you have enrolled,” Ellspermann said. “If they're not successful, you're never going to get to the completion number.”

She said they're looking for creative solutions and services to help students overcome challenges to finishing school.