By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
---- — The Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo board of trustees Thursday approved a budget for the coming year that’s $1.2 million leaner than the year before.
Chancellor Steve Daily said the decreased state funding is due, in part, to declining enrollment. He said enrollment in the region has gone down 30 percent in the past three years.
But they’re cutting into an already bare-boned budget, he said.
It’s no secret that the Ivy Tech system as a whole is trying to cut costs wherever it can. The state’s community college system is $68 million in debt.
And all of the regional campuses are starting to feel the strain.
“We’re as skinny as we can get,” Daily told the trustees. “That makes me nervous.”
The Kokomo region received $18.67 million in state allocations for the 2013-2014 school year – down from $19.89 million the year before.
Eighty-eight percent of those allocations go toward salaries, wages and benefits.
Nearly $900,000 is set aside for supplies and equipment. That’s down nearly $300,000 from last year.
The region has budgeted $672,836 for facility leases in the coming year. That number, too, is down.
Daily said budget constraints have already forced the region to cut way back on professional development for its staff.
“We really squeezed professional development,” he said. “We have almost no out-of-state travel and minimized in-state travel.”
So far Ivy Tech hasn’t had to cut back on the financial support it offers to staff members who want to continue their education.
Daily said years ago he made a commitment to at least 150 staff members that he would help them raise their educational attainment level if they wanted to.
“These past couple of years, that’s been hard to do,” he said. “That’s another thing that’s in jeopardy if the budget doesn’t improve.”
The region is cutting costs where it can.
There are probably 30 vacant positions that will go unfilled because the money isn’t there, Daily said.
Officials also are trying to minimize the amount of money they write off every year when students don’t pay their tuition and fees.
They’ve been somewhat successful this year, bringing it down by 29 percent.
Thursday, the trustees gave their approval to write off $613,463.24. That’s down from $861,000 the year before.
And Daily said that number would likely be even lower, maybe about $550,000, by the time the college has to write the check.
Officials have been working hard to collect the money. They started sending out letters from the chancellor reminding them that not paying their bills carries consequences. The students can no longer sign up for classes, and they can’t get a transcript from the university until their bill is paid.
Last year they sent out 250 letters, and collected $33,000.
But this year’s write-offs still represent 2.8 percent of the region’s total revenue. That’s too high, Daily said.
“There was a time when our goal was less than 1 percent,” he said. “During the hard times, it went way up. It just hasn’t come back down.”
Looking to the future, though, the college has to focus on enrolling news students and retaining the ones it has. In the past three years, enrollment in the Kokomo region has gone from about 6,000 to about 4,000.
“The numbers are not good,” Daily said. “I hate it.”
Some of those students left Ivy Tech when the job market improved and they found jobs. But Ivy Tech campuses throughout the region are losing students to Indiana University Kokomo, too.
“IUK has upped its game,” Daily said. “They’re taking a portion of the 18-year-old students that would have come here.”
They’re really attracting a younger demographic with their new, state-of-the-art fitness center and athletic programs, Daily said. It has actually prompted Ivy Tech to look into athletics.
“It didn’t make a lot of sense to get into athletics before,” Daily said. “But when IUK does it, and they do it successfully, it makes us question ourselves.”
Ivy Tech officials have started talking to the Kokomo YMCA about a possible partnership, not only for gym memberships but for athletics, too.
Daily said he would like to add intramural sports at some point. The Y will be their pathway into organized athletics, he said.
The region is pumping more money into student activities. Part of this year’s tuition increases go directly to student life programs. That money has generated an additional $74,000 for the region.
Ivy Tech used a portion of it to add equipment to its fitness center, bring in motivational speakers and hold back-to-school activities.
“We’re doing a lot of exciting things,” said Michelle Simmons, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.