When the recession hit in late 2007, Ivy Tech Community College suddenly became the major focal point of post-secondary education across Indiana and in Madison County.
As laid-off workers sought to gain new skills and high school graduates recognized that their degree wouldn't be enough to gain lucrative employment, more and more Hoosiers turned to the statewide community college.
With the economy stumbling and new Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder, a prominent Andersonian, providing aggressive leadership, enrollment soared to nearly 130,000, and the Hoosier community college network drew national attention for its sudden growth.
Since then, enrollment has leveled off. And recently, a national report showed that Ivy Tech is lagging behind community colleges nationwide when it comes to getting students through to graduation. According to state data, only 4 percent of Ivy Tech students gain a degree within two years, and only 23 percent get their degree within six years.
Those statistics are troubling, particularly when you consider that Ivy Tech offers associate degrees, which are designed mostly as two-year programs.
Now, many folks who decide to study toward a two-year degree are at a point in their lives when full-time schooling isn't possible. They have children, or they have to work while going to school, squeezing in a few academic hours here and there where they can afford it and when they have the time. Others enter Ivy Tech to get preliminary classwork done with the idea of moving on to four-year colleges via Ivy Tech's collaborative agreements with Ball State University and others.
Also, in Madison County some enrolled at Ivy Tech after being laid off. But then they were hired back by the same company or another, forestalling the need for additional training for a new career.
But similar conditions exist for community college students in many other states, and Ivy Tech ranks dead last, according to the Lumina Foundation, in terms of students who earn their degree within six years.