Ivy Tech growth hurt PUC center
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 March 14, 2013 5:46PM
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:09PM
A perfect storm of factors decimated enrollment at the Purdue Calumet University Academic Learning Center in Merrillville.
It’s also left PUC saddled with a $560,000 annual lease for a building it may not use after the spring semester ends.
PUC heralded the new $9.1 million center at a groundbreaking in 2004. It was built on a 400-acre tract of land owned by the Purdue Research Foundation. The 48,000 square-foot center sits next to the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana, a start-up business incubator, in the Ameriplex complex off Broadway, about 2 miles south of U.S. 30.
At the time, PUC was offering classes at four south county sites that attracted about 600 students. Officials envisioned the center would see an enrollment of about 2,000 and serve as a feeder into the main campus in Hammond.
The learning center opened in 2005. A year later, the state turned Ivy Tech into a community college, telling regional campuses they could no longer offer associate degrees. The opportunity to offer remedial courses for students also went to Ivy Tech, and its enrollment exploded.
The changes happened under former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who’s now president at Purdue.
PUC spokesman Wes Lukoshus said Daniels was told of PUC’s decision to shut down the learning center but the former governor didn’t play a role in the decision.
Since 2008, enrollment has declined at the learning center from 1,406 to 322 this spring.
Meanwhile, Lukoshus said the economic downturn hit and more for-profit colleges emerged on the Merrillville-area scene.
“We built out there because it was a growth area and a lot of that growth has slowed down,” said Lukoshus. Census figures released Thursday showed Lake County lost more population than any county in Indiana.
Keeping the learning center open cost PUC $280,000 annually in operating costs.
A spokeswoman for the Purdue Research Foundation said it’s aware of PUC’s decision.