Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 17, 2013

Ivy Tech aims for higher degree attainment

Chancellor said math program could be game changer for area.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo will soon launch two new programs aimed at retaining more students, drawing more adults in and filling a critical skills gap in advanced manufacturing.

Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder was on campus Wednesday to talk about the initiatives and the need to increase educational attainment in Indiana.

Only 33 percent of adults in Indiana have at least an associate degree — ranking the state 40th in the nation. In the Ivy Tech Kokomo region, those numbers fall even lower.

Howard County comes in highest at 28.3 percent. Miami County falls lowest. Only 20.36 percent of that county’s adults have an associate degree or higher.

Snyder said the college is trying to be more proactive in changing those numbers.

Ivy Tech Kokomo region is unveiling new programs that chancellor Steve Daily said will be game changers for the area.

Next fall, Ivy Tech Kokomo region is launching a new math program. Students signing up for classes will choose a math course based on their area of study.

Ivy Tech will offer three levels of math — STEM, technical and quantitative learning math. The third is a practical math class geared toward students who won’t need much math in their careers, Daily said.

“It made little sense to make a student take a high level math course if it didn’t prepare them in any fashion for their careers,” he said.

A lot of career fields don’t need STEM math like calculus, Snyder said. In fact, the idea of taking high level math classes deters many adults from ever even trying to return to college.

Snyder said he can see why it would be intimidating. Even students who come straight from high school sometimes need math remediation because it’s been a year or two since their last algebra class.

“Math is like milk,” he said. “It’s going to spoil.”

The idea with the new math program is fewer students will get stuck in remedial classes that leave them frustrated and make it harder for them to complete their degree programs. Snyder said he’s also hoping it will give more adults the courage to come back to school. That’s a population the college needs to reach if Indiana has any hope of increasing its educational attainment, he said.

Math is a barrier to middle class living today, Snyder said.

“In the past, the U.S. has made college accessible only to those who have passed college algebra,” he said. “We’re changing math so you don’t have to have college algebra. That’s one of the issues with our attainment levels.”

Ivy Tech partnered with Chrysler to create the second new initiative, higher technology.

Ivy Tech designed a curriculum that can be taken directly into high school career centers. Juniors and seniors learn about the advanced manufacturing industry and pick up some early college skills they might need.

Students will be able to earn a logistics certification and become a certified production technician before they graduate, said Jan Bailey, director of Ivy Tech Kokomo region’s corporate college.

The project is still in its infancy, but ideally, high school seniors would spend a portion of their school day at Chrysler to get some hands-on experience at a manufacturing facility. They could graduate with up to nine college credit hours.

Then, they’d have an option of continuing their education at Ivy Tech in a more intensive program being developed right now.

Bailey said the college will seek approval for a degree they’re calling automation technology. Students will enter a co-op where they would spend part of their day at Chrysler and part of it in labs at Ivy Tech learning about the advanced technology used in today’s manufacturing facilities.

“The robotics that they’re doing … it’s moving in a very interesting direction,” Bailey said.

Daily said Ivy Tech’s push to fill the skills gap in advanced manufacturing hasn’t gone well so far.

Many people in the area remember the days when the auto industry was bottoming out and people were losing their jobs, he said. They don’t consider it a secure career.

“The industries in town are working hard to change those opinions,” Daily said. “It’s a much more attractive job now. It’s a lucrative job.”

Still, though, it’s a hard sell, he said. Ivy Tech has a lot of work to do to convince high school students and their parents otherwise.

Bailey said they need to do this, though. It will go a long way in helping the region and Chrysler.

“They have pretty critical job needs right now,” she said.

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com