Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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July 14, 2013

Beyond the numbers

Officials say Ivy Tech graduation rates don't tell whole story

It took single mom Sarah Miller seven years to graduate with a two-year degree in computer information technology.

It was difficult juggling classes with caring for her two children. The Kokomo woman enrolled in online classes at Ivy Tech Community College whenever she could, but admitted there were times she just had to drop out for a while.

Ivy Tech was there to support her through every step.“I knew Ivy Tech wasn’t giving up on me,” she said. “That made me even more determined to finish my degree.”

Miller said she doesn’t think it’s fair for state officials to scrutinize the community college for its low on-time graduation rates. The college shouldn’t be punished for giving non-traditional students like her an opportunity for an education, she said.

“That’s what’s so great about Ivy Tech,” Miller said. “They adapt to the circumstances you’re going through. Things happen. You can’t help that.”

But in recent weeks, state leaders have said the college’s graduation rates simply aren’t acceptable. Just 4 percent of students statewide at Ivy Tech Community College graduate within two years and only 23 percent earn degrees in six years, according to state data.

Statistics in the Kokomo region are a little higher. According to local officials, 15 percent of its students graduate on time.Those numbers make officials wary of pumping more money into the college, though.

“Is it a funding issue — or is it a completion issue?” Marilee Springer, Gov. Mike Pence’s senior policy director, told the Indianapolis Star. “We can keep driving money in, but that money needs to lead to degree completion. I don’t know if more funding is the answer.”

Local Ivy Tech officials said Indiana has never pumped money into its college system. The reality is Ivy Tech is underfunded compared to other institutions, they said.Forty-seven percent of all students enrolled in public colleges in Indiana attend Ivy Tech, said Ivy Tech Kokomo Region Chancellor Steve Daily on a recent afternoon. But the college gets just 14 percent of the appropriations from the state.

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