News

In Perspective: Funding, and factors that affect student success

By: NEIL KING    
Staff Writer

IU South Bend (IUSB) Chancellor Terry Allison said that low graduation rates and lowered enrollment rates could hurt the school’s funding.

Allison said that ever year, the state of Indiana takes 7 percent of the school’s funding back at the end of the year and doles it out to schools that show improvement in chosen areas.

Some schools, Allison pointed out, receive more than their seven percent back at the end of the year and others get less than the full amount back.

Allison said that with a loss of funding, there would be less money to give to the Student Government Association and that the school would cut spending by eliminating staff positions that have a weak demand. For example, a teacher whose class has low enrollment might be eliminated.

Another option, Allison said, is to consolidate positions or to simply not fill staff vacancies.

This means that the current trend of lowered graduation and enrollment rates could start to affect what the school has to offer to students, which in turn could harm those rates even more.

Currently, the six-year graduation rate of IUSB is around 25 percent, with 400 less students enrolled in the 2013-14 that there were in 2012-2013, according to IU Fact Book. IUSB’s graduation rate is competitive with other IU branch schools, except for IUPU of Indianapolis, which is second only to Bloomington in graduation rates and enrollment.

Allison said that while the school has a moral obligation to help students succeed, it is also a financial concern for the school. For IUSB to continue to succeed there has to be money to expand programs and entice more students to enroll and graduate.

One of the reasons for this needed extra effort to recruit students is a lowering of the population from which IUSB can draw from.

In the rural areas around IUSB, the population has dropped 10 percent, according to Allison, with only around 22.5 percent of residents obtaining at least a bachelor’s degree.

“We serve several counties. Eight are within our service area. Those graduating from high school… the number is going down, and it’s projected to continue to go down for several years,” Allison said. “A challenge for us is that of those graduating from high school they’re increasingly from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education. For example a growing Latino population.”

Allison said that the challenge with growing populations of students that have historically been underrepresented in college is that they don’t have the same confidence and family support system that a student whose parents or brother or grandparents have already attended college.

It’s IUSB’s goal to reach out to these students, Allison said, in order to convince them that they can succeed at college, that it will benefit them to do so, and to give them the support and tools necessary to reach the graduation stage.

Gary Hawkins has a position provided by the Leighton grant to essentially help IUSB improve student success and retention.

Hawkins pointed to several factors that were warning signs of students who may drop out, such as proximity to campus.

The closer a student is to campus, the more the likely they will succeed at school. Hawkins said this is why it wouldn’t do as much good as one might think to increase recruiting across the region for IUSB.

“It’s a real catch-22, and one of the challenges we face as a commuter campus,” Hawkins said. “If we widen our area we hurt our graduation rates, but with a falling population we will have tend to have lower enrollment rates.”

Hawkins said he is excited to get back some solid statistics from a cohort program the Leighton School of Business and Economics has been implementing since the fall semester.

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