#BizVoiceExtra: BSU and the President’s Office

Sitting down and having discussions with business, government and community leaders is a part of this communications/BizVoice editor gig that is truly enjoyable. And conversations with university presidents or chancellors are always intriguing. Most, as expected, are excellent communicators. Some (no, I’m not going to name names) give you the impression the talk might be at a higher level than the actions to follow.

I enjoyed a recent sit-down with Geoff Mearns, the 18th president of my alma mater – Ball State. The focus was to be on university-community engagement. It shifted a bit to K-12 when legislation currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly would place Ball State in the role of managing the troubled Muncie Community Schools. (Read more on both here).

Mearns is impressive – not just in our talk but in the views of many in Muncie and beyond. A trial lawyer for 15-plus years, he says the most important skill (in that job and his current one) is listening. He’s doing just that and taking the initial steps to move BSU in the right direction as it prepares to look beyond the 2018 celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Although Terry King served in an interim role for nearly a year and a half, Ball State is coming off the still mysterious departure of Paul Ferguson. Yes, these situations when a relationship at such a high level does not work out are tricky, but as a journalism graduate of the school, it was extremely disappointing to see the lack of transparency/communication when Ferguson was suddenly gone in January 2016. In fact, he had been in our Indiana Chamber offices less than two weeks earlier for a BizVoice roundtable.

On the positive side, Beverley Pitts was a longtime BSU administrator who served as interim president for a portion of 2004 before Jo Ann Gora began a decade-long tenure. Pitts went on to the same role at the University of Indianapolis from 2005-2012. Here is a conversation we shared upon her retirement. Her journalism background – and those strong communication abilities – may have played a part in my admiration of her leadership.

A note on another BSU president. John Worthen moved into that spot in 1984 (the year I graduated) and served until 2000 (bringing some much-needed stability). And then he stayed in Muncie. The basketball/volleyball home is now Worthen Arena and I’m told the former president is frequently on hand to cheer on the Cardinals.

Breaking Down the College Completion Numbers

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has the numbers and Inside Higher Ed provides the analysis.

Almost 38 percent of students who began at a public two-year institution completed a degree in six years, according to a new study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center that tracked a cohort of students at public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities from 2011 to 2017.

Students who started at private four-year nonprofit institutions had the highest completion rates (76 percent), followed by students at public four-years (64.7 percent), public two-years (37.5 percent) and private four-year for-profits (35.3 percent).

Of public two-year college students who completed, about 70 percent did so at their starting institution, while approximately 30 percent completed at a different institution, according to the study.

Almost half of the students who began at a public two-year institution were no longer enrolled after six years, according to the study. About 15 percent were still enrolled. Rates of “stop out” –  students who had earned no degree or certificate, and had no enrollment activity during the final year of the study period –  were the highest (54.1 percent) at private four-year for-profit institutions, followed by public two-year institutions (47.3 percent).

Exclusively full-time public two-year students had the highest proportion of completions and lowest proportion of stop-outs, according to the study. The rate at which students were still enrolled after six years was higher among those with mixed enrollments than their full-time or part-time counterparts.

Of all students who started at public two-year institutions, about 15 percent completed at a four-year institution, including those who did so with and without receiving a two-year credential first.

Walorski Pushes for New Repeal of Medical Device Tax; Messer’s Reverse Transfer Concept Amended Into Reauthorization Bill

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) has brought forth legislation to suspend the medical device tax for five years. She joined Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) in co-authoring the bill, H.R. 4617, which would delay the implementation of the 2.3% tax that was originally created through the Affordable Care Act. In 2017, Congress delayed the tax for two years, but without intervention it is set to take effect January 1, 2018.

“The job-killing medical device tax would have a devastating impact on Hoosier workers and patients across the country who depend on life-saving medical innovation,” Walorski said. “I am committed to permanently ending this burdensome tax. As we continue working toward repeal, we must protect workers and patients by preventing it from taking effect.”

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02)

Walorski’s bill was part of a group of legislation introduced by members of the House Ways and Means Committee aimed at stopping Obamacare taxes set to take effect in 2018. The other four measures are:

• H.R. 4618, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), provides relief for two years from the tax on over-the-counter medications, expanding access and reducing health care costs by once again allowing for reimbursement under consumer-directed accounts;
• H.R. 4620, introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), provides relief in 2018 from the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) that drives up health care costs;
• H.R. 4619, introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), provides needed relief from HIT for two years for health care plans regulated by Puerto Rico; and
• H.R. 4616, introduced by Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA), delivers three years of retroactive relief and one year of prospective relief from the harmful employer mandate paired with a one-year delay of the Cadillac tax.

Earlier this year, Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) introduced legislation that encourages a more seamless transition for community college transfer students earning degrees. Messer’s proposal would make it easier for students to earn a degree through a “reverse transfer,” where students who transferred from a community college to a four-year-institution but haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree can apply those additional credits back toward an associate’s degree.

Originally titled the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017, it was recently added as an amendment to the Higher Education Re-authorization by the House Committee on Education and Workforce. The provision would streamline credit sharing between community colleges and four-year institutions so transfer students can be notified when they become eligible to receive an associate’s degree through a reverse transfer.

“An associate’s degree can make a huge difference for working Hoosiers,” Messer said. “By making it easier for transfer students to combine credits and get a degree they’ve earned, Hoosiers will have more opportunities to get good-paying jobs and succeed in today’s workforce.” This legislation was supported not only by the Indiana Chamber, but also by Ivy Tech Community College and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Guest Blog: College Course Costs Not Always What They Appear to Be

Budgeting for college can be tricky business. Students and families must take into consideration tuition rates, living expenses, books, transportation and more, but even the most diligent financial planners cannot be fully effective when undisclosed costs are imposed.
This summer, I enrolled in an online class at Ivy Tech to fulfill a requirement before fall semester. As Ivy Tech reports, undergraduate in-state tuition is $116 per credit hour, so I anticipated a bill of roughly $350 for the course.  However, including fees and homework access, the course has cost roughly $550.
Where did the extra $200 go? Roughly half went to mandatory fees including a technology fee and student life fee, which are listed below the tuition chart on Ivy Tech’s web site. The other half purchased access to MyMathLab, an online portal that houses required homework and quizzes. This course is not $116 per credit hour but closer to $183 … and that doesn’t include the book or exam proctor fees.
Unfortunately, students (at most, if not all, colleges and universities) are all too familiar with these additional, often hidden, costs of school, both institutional and course-specific. While institution-wide mandatory fees are generally listed on a bill statement, they are not always included in the per-hour tuition figure. Furthermore, course-specific and professor-specific costs – such as access to homework and class participation clickers – are often unknown until the first day of class. For many students, finding a couple hundred more dollars for each class simply is not a financial possibility.
But Indiana colleges and universities can make a few minor changes to assist students in their financial planning. First, institutions must make tuition and mandatory fees more transparent by reporting them as one figure. While most institutions combine tuition and fees for estimations of annual cost of attendance, fees are often left out of per credit hour figures, making the tuition rate misleading and confusing to students. Second, professors should report any additional fees required for their classes at the time of enrollment to allow students to make the best financial decision for them.
As college costs continue to rise, students and families must have accurate and complete information to effectively budget. Transparency in all fees will help them financially prepare for school.


Hannah Rozow is the student representative on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. A senior at Indiana University in Bloomington, she is pursuing a double major in economics and political science with a minor in Spanish.

GUEST BLOG: Computer Science Education Reaching Critical Mass

Graduation season is always a time for reflection in higher education, and this year is no different for those of us who prepare students in one of the fastest growing fields in the country: Computer science.

With more than 60 students graduating this year from IUPUI with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, we’re pleased we are making progress in meeting a critical need for trained computer scientists in central Indiana. Even so, it is a constant challenge to match the pace of the job creation in the field. It’s estimated there are three computer science jobs available for every one new graduate, a departure from the environment of underemployment many new college graduates are facing today. The “big picture” scenario of the industry clearly illustrates we have a much higher hill to climb before declaring success.

The good news for students who are considering a computer science degree is that the facts are in your favor. Jobs are plentiful and pay well compared to other fields. Every imaginable industry can use the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills of a trained computer scientist, and the field offers a great deal of marketability and job security for graduates. Consider these additional facts:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salaries for computer scientists at more than $97,000 and starting salaries for computer software engineers in Indianapolis with a bachelor’s degree at more than $50,000.
  • Occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree in computer science are growing at more than 20% annually.
  • Computer science jobs account for 70% of the annual job growth for all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

Despite these powerful and tangible benefits, the fact remains that universities across the country, not just the School of Science at IUPUI, still find it challenging to expand their computer science enrollment rosters. The field faces an identity crisis. The misguided image of computer scientists as introverts hunkered down in a dimly lit room for days at a time is no longer reality. Today’s computer scientists are professionals from all races and genders and represent an integral part of every industry looking to grow with the help of technology. Every computer scientist has the ability to impact a variety of fields, and the versatility of such a degree can open up immense possibilities. Computers are simply tools to help scientists think smarter and work more efficiently when solving complex problems. Until this distinction is made, most students are drawn to other majors that have a more clear social relevance and easily identifiable job description.

So why is there such a gap between the number of computer science students and the number of professional computer scientists?

Computer science has not been integrated well enough yet into middle and high school education requirements. K-12 students rarely have options to pursue computer science courses that will give them college credit while also allowing them to expand their knowledge and interest in the field. Not all students are expected to become biologists, but biology is a required course. The same emphasis should be applied to computer science courses, but not just those that focus on computer applications. We need to support students in efforts to create technology, not just learn how to use it. Just because students use technology everyday does not mean they understand it. Computer scientists are trained to understand the how and why of information technology, not just its functionality.

Until we approach the educational imperatives this field requires, we will continue to play catch up in the challenge to fill these jobs and to help our technology-dependent industries innovate and grow. As a result, central Indiana’s tech sector and other businesses are at a disadvantage they cannot afford.

Shiaofen Fang, Ph.D. is a professor and chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science at Indiana University Purdue University – Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Company, Universities Make Eco-Impact in Evansville

Alcoa and the universities of Evansville and Southern Indiana took part in a nationwide recycling contest, with great results for those institutions and the community:

The University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana recycled more than 67,000 pounds of material during the 8-week long RecycleMania contest, which was sponsored nationally by the Alcoa Foundation.

In total, 630 colleges and universities competed in the nationwide contest, which is meant to bolster on-campus recycling rates. This year, 91 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials were recovered during the challenge, which prevented the release of nearly 270 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions from 53 million passenger cars.

Locally, Alcoa Warrick Operations encouraged the two universities in this challenge through the donation of recycling bins and a $1,500 prize to the school that performed the best on a per capita basis.

The University of Evansville won the local contest, collecting 15.45 pounds of waste for every student, compared to USI’s 5.64 pounds per student. The University of Evansville also finished first in the state of Indiana among the 10 Hoosier schools, and it also placed in the top tier of schools nationwide on a per capita basis, finishing 119th out of 630 schools.

“By building the first two LEED-certified buildings in Vanderburgh County, the Schroeder Family School of Business Administration Building and the Ridgway University Center, the University of Evansville has proven itself to be a community leader on issues of sustainability,” said UE President Thomas A. Kazee. “We’re proud to continue that role with our outstanding performance in RecycleMania.”

The University of Evansville also finished 29th as the Grand Champion – an achievement based on both source reduction and recycling.

The University of Southern Indiana won in one state-wide category to see which school could divert the largest amount of food service organics per person.

 Todd Wilson, an assistant Vice President at USI , said the university increased its recycling during the RecycleMania program. “And we plan to keep up that trend year-round.”

“We’d like to offer our congratulations to UE on their win in the competition,” Wilson said. “But it’s a win-win-win for USI, UE, and the community, as less material went into the waste stream as a result.”

Paula Davis, President of the Alcoa Foundation, said the program was a great success nationally, encouraging tomorrow’s leaders to focus even more on sustainability and waste reduction.

Alcoa Behind Major Recycling Effort

Great story here out of the Evansville area. As part of Alcoa Foundation’s global plan to assist the communities in which it resides, it’s joining Keep America Beautiful (in participation with the Universities of Evansville and Southern Indiana) enhance the environment through recycling. Read the details

The Alcoa Foundation has joined forces with Keep America Beautiful to encourage greater recycling among tomorrow’s leaders by sponsoring RecycleMania, an intense, 10-week competition between colleges and universities.

In addition to the Alcoa Foundation’s support of the nationwide program, which includes more than 600 schools, Warrick Operations is sponsoring a local competition between the University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana. The local university performing the best in Recycle Mania will receive a $1,500 donation from Alcoa Warrick Operations to further assist the school’s on-campus recycling programs.

“By supporting KAB’s RecycleMania, we want to educate students, professors and the entire campus community about the importance of recycling and inspire people to take that extra step in the dorm, at the library and after class,” said Paula Davis, Alcoa Foundation President.

Expansion Now “Front Burner” Issue for Big Ten Conference

How can I justify putting this post on our blog? Hmm, well it’s sort of education-related … and it’s definitely profit-related.

The Big Ten athletic conference is looking seriously at expanding to 12 teams. The last team to join was Penn State in 1990. Schools reported as top candidates to fill the current void include Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Brian Kelly’s boys in South Bend remain doubtful. The Chicago Tribune explains the rationale behind expansion:

Jim Delany never will be a contestant on "Top Chef," but the Big Ten commissioner frequently has used a cooking analogy when asked about the prospects of Big Ten expansion.

"A back-burner issue," he has called it.

Not anymore. According to a league official, the Big Ten will release a statement Tuesday saying the matter has moved to the front burner.

The first sign of change came from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who told Wisconsin’s athletic board on Friday that Delany "is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it. I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

A league source on Monday cited a "growing groundswell" of support among athletic directors for expansion.

In 1990, the Big Ten became the Bigger 11 by adding Penn State. (The Nittany Lions had to wait until 1993 to vie for their first Rose Bowl.) In 1999, Notre Dame stiff-armed the league’s overtures, and that put the issue on ice.

Why is it being revisited now?

The biggest reason, as always, is the stuff that doesn’t grow on trees: money. If the league expands to 12 teams and two divisions — like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — it would create a Big Ten title game that could be worth $5 million or more to the league. The Big Ten Network would love to televise it, and the conference has a 51 percent ownership stake in the network.

Personally, I must admit that I love the Big Ten Conference. So much so that even though I’m an Indiana man, I even root for Purdue against "outsiders." And I think the conference embodies the characteristics of many Midwesterners like myself — the competitiveness, the penchant for good sportsmanship, and the plight of being terrible at football.

So I have mixed feelings about this move (should it happen). The money would be nice, but I think mega conferences like the Big East can get so convoluted they lose their identity, so expansion should be treaded lightly. Your thoughts?