University presidents pressed Indiana lawmakers for more money Tuesday, emphasizing concerns about the state’s current funding formula.
Under the budget plan the House passed last week, universities would see an increase of 1.7 percent in their operating funds from the state in the next two years – less than half the growth rate designated to higher education in the previous budget cycle.
Both Purdue University and Indiana State University’s state money would decrease by 0.8 percent from their current appropriations. Other schools would only see modest increases, such as the University of Southern Indiana’s 0.2 percent increase in operating dollars.
“There are some anomalies,” said Purdue president and former Gov. Mitch Daniels in his presentation to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “If in fact we are contributing what we believe is great value, maybe unique value to the state, you might expect something that looks a little different than this.”
Purdue’s chunk of state funding in the budget has continued to decrease, despite the university boasting high rankings in national surveys. Daniels started his presentation Tuesday by noting that the Wall Street Journal and Time Higher Education ranked Purdue the fourth-best public institution in the country.
Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University will see the highest percent increase, at 3.3 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. But even so, IU president Michael McRobbie called for an increase in the total amount of funds dedicated for higher education in the Senate’s version of the bill.
“I’m concerned about the level of appropriations included in the House budget (that) would make it extremely difficult for Indiana University to continue the partnership with you and to keep tuition increases low,” McRobbie said. “And this partnership was possible because of the level of state funding included in the current biennial budget that enabled the institutions as a whole to implement very modest tuition increases, and of course in the Bloomington campus, to freeze tuition for the last couple of years”
During the last budget cycle, Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, asked universities to freeze tuition increases in exchange for more aggressive funding from the state. While he has not made the same promise yet this year, he assured university leaders that the committee would do what they could.
Purdue-West Lafayette had made a five-year pledge to freeze tuition through the 2017-18 school year. IU-Bloomington made a two-year pledge that ends this school year.
Julie Griffith, a spokeswoman for Purdue, said in a statement that the school will "continue to look at ways in which we can offer higher education at the highest proven value."
Teresa Lubbers, the commissioner for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said that since 2009, tuition increases at Indiana’s universities have remained some of the lowest in the nation.
But, as university officials pointed out, something has got to give. During their presentations, presidents tried to obtain money from other sources outside of the operating fund.
Daniel Bradley, president of Indiana State University, requested a $4.7 million line-item in the budget to go towards student success. But that money was not in the House’s proposed budget.
That budget included funding for 10 capital projects, such as renovations to Ivy Tech Community College’s Kokomo and Muncie campuses, $34 million for repairs each year and $137 million in cash funding to reduce borrowing costs for institutions.
The budget also funds USI’s campus security enhancements, since USI is the only residential campus in Indiana without a designated police force.
But items such as Purdue’s $4 million request to fund engineering, computer science and polytechnic, and Ivy Tech’s request for money to renovate its other branches, were left out.
“Bottom line is our success can only continue if we are able to convince you to provide us with additional funding,” Bradley said. “As fixed cost goes up, as enrollment goes up, we are not able to maintain the level of support we’ve given our student success efforts without a turnaround in state appropriation.”
Indy Star reporter Tony Cook contributed to this story.