By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Ivy Tech Community College often fits the bill for those who want to limit their student loan debt and are seeking a two-year degree or a low-cost alternative to the first two years of a four-year degree.
“We are the front door to a higher education,” said Ron Sloan, vice chancellor of academic affairs. “And maybe the only door for some people.”
At Ivy Tech, the 2012-13 cost of a credit hour is $111. Ivy Tech’s average tuition cost for a full-time, in-state student is $3,200 a year, compared to Ball State’s $7,912 and Anderson University’s $25,400.
Ivy Tech serves more than 200,000 students annually at 30 campuses, including one in Anderson, across the state. State-supported, it is Indiana’s largest institution of higher education.
Ivy Tech can offer credits for less, in part, because it doesn’t have the infrastructure to maintain that other colleges do. Ivy Tech doesn’t build residence halls and doesn’t hold events that would require a structure such as a music hall. Fewer buildings on campus means lower utility costs, Sloan said.
Ivy Tech also has more adjunct, or part-time, professors who focus on teaching rather than research. That’s another cost savings.
And Ivy Tech can help students garner a four-year degree for less by offering credits that are transferable to universities such as Ball State.
Many credits are transferred course by course, but Ivy Tech has forged partnerships with other colleges in regions near Ivy Tech campuses. For example, the community college has formal agreements with Anderson University that apply to courses in criminal justice and early-childhood education.
Those partnerships, Sloan said, are assets that help strengthen the college. Many Ivy Tech students go on to a four-year college; the biggest recipient of Ivy Tech graduates in Madison County is Ball State.
Sloan pointed out that the credit-hour transfer policy is currently being revised in legislation to help eliminate non-transferable credits. This would help students save more money and need less in student loans.
For students who don’t wish to go on to a four-year university, Ivy Tech offers two-year associate degrees that could lead to life-long careers.
While Ivy Tech offers an education for less, some students accumulate debt, Sloan said. About 70 percent receive financial aid. The federal Pell Grant provides the most assistance, said Tammy Tomfohrde, Ivy Tech’s regional director of financial aid.
She noted that many Ivy Tech students are eligible for the full Pell Grant amount of $5,550, which covers two full-time semesters with some left over to assist with books and other educational expenses. The college also has its own grant and scholarships that can offset costs.
“This means a significant number of our students are able to come to school full-time, incur no debt and have no money out of pocket,” Tomfohrde said.
She noted that Ivy Tech has initiatives to help students understand responsible borrowing, including need versus want and the significance of signing a loan agreement. Students who take out loans are now required to complete two life-skills seminars.
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