Presidents of four state universities came before the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee to present their budget recommendations and highlight their specific needs as the process of preparing the state legislature’s budget begins.
Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Chris Lowery opened the committee meeting by explaining the Higher Education Commission’s key goals for the 2023-25 budget. Some of his concerns included funding higher education, increasing state student retention to keep students in Indiana, and working on the capital project recommendations for each of the colleges.
Rep. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, brought up Indiana’s 21st Century Scholarship program, and Lowery explained that only about 48% of eligible students apply for the scholarship. As Gov. Eric Holcomb suggested in his next-level agenda for the 2023 session, Lowery said some sort of automatic motion option was needed.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, noted the importance of lowering tuition overall: “I want to suggest to you that we start lowering tuition as a policy and fund it 100% from federal funds. We have the means to fund lower levels of study for 100% of the students.”
University of Southern Indiana
President Ronald S. Rochon presented what he believed to be some of USI’s greatest recent achievements.
USI has been successful in national competitions in the fields of business, technology and broadcasting. In a 3D printing competition, USI’s student team took second place against 15 other schools, including Baylor University and Stanford University.
Rochon said 40% of all students are from counties surrounding the college. The average first-time GPA for the school is 3.49 on a 4-point scale.
In light of these achievements, the University of Southern Indiana is asking the state of Indiana to fund the maintenance of Historic New Harmony, which is controlled by the college. For USI’s capital budget proposal, the college is asking for $83,000,000 to fund the first phase of its academic renovation. This includes updates to the classrooms, study rooms, and labs in the Wright Building for Health Professions.
Ball State University
President Geoffrey Mearns began his presentation by describing how Ball State students are generating Indiana significant returns on their investments, particularly through their retention percentage.
“We currently have more than 200,000 alumni at Ball State University and 70% of them, about 160,000 Ball State alumni, live and work right here in Indiana,” Mearns said.
Mearns divided his funding request into three sections: base adjustment for inflation, legacy funding, and prospective funding.
The main capital requirement of the BSU concerns the renovation of the architecture building, the arts and communications building and other academic infrastructure.
BSU’s partnership with Muncie Community Schools has allowed the university to stabilize enrollment and revitalize the city’s school district, Mears said. They have also been able to increase teacher and staff compensation and increase the overall teacher retention rate to around 80%. Mearns requested that some of the funding be used to continue this project.
As the head of Indiana’s oldest college, President Charles R. Johnson spent the first few minutes of his presentation listing some of Vincennes’ accomplishments.
The university implemented the CircleIn app, which allows students to interact with each other and help each other learn. When they sign up for study sessions, they earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Johnson said the college has seen significant results since implementing the app.
Johnson said the college has also seen its dual-credit program have a positive impact on students, and it’s something they plan to continue in the future. According to him, dual loans save students and the state about $160 million annually.
“We were absolutely a key player in that,” Johnson said. “We have been running dual lending in some form for almost 50 years. And we are very pleased with what we can do to further expand this commitment.”
In addition to these other applications, the college is requesting $33,900,000 for its Health Sciences and Active Learning Center.
Incoming Purdue President Mung Chiang began his presentation with a joke about knowing he is not his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, which was met with laughter from committee members.
Chiang’s main topic of conversation was how much the West Lafayette campus has recovered from the pandemic. Applications to the college have continued to rise, and he said Purdue has a record 18,000 students in the state.
Using Indiana’s budget, Chiang also mentioned that the college has gone 10 years with no tuition increases. He said he plans to propose another year of no increases for 2023.
“Our hope is the following, which continues to get bigger and better — at the same time primarily for students in the state,” Chang said. “We hope that we can convince many other Hoosiers who have converted.”
Other universities will submit their applications.