Re-evaluating college choices

December 14, 2016 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS – The proposed split of the IPFW campus is already having ramifications as parents and prospective students reconsider going to a college in transition.

Steve and Rita Smith had never heard of IPFW before their daughter Jessica began looking at colleges.

But after a visit to the campus and a private flute lesson, all three were impressed with the music therapy program.

“It just clicked,” said Rita Smith of Springfield, Illinois.

Jessica got accepted for the 2017 fall semester but still has to audition for Indiana University’s music program in the next few months.

Now that music program’s future is uncertain and so is Jessica’s.

“It’s really throwing a kick into deciding,” her mother said. “We wouldn’t be quite as concerned or quite as scared if IU had kept the music school.”

Under the proposal, IU would retain health sci­ences-related programs and Purdue University would control the rest. That includes music, even though Purdue doesn’t have a music school on other campuses.

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The changes would be implemented in July 2018.

So the Smiths are concerned that she will start in one program and then move to another program that won’t have the same quality, ultimately forcing their daughter to transfer.

Jessica does have other options; she has been admitted to University of Evansville and Illinois State, as well.

The IU Board of Trustees last week voted to approve the realignment plan that involves splitting the college and IU and Purdue both focusing on their relative strengths. The Purdue board is set to vote Friday.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said at a news conference Monday at IPFW that the music school in Fort Wayne is “a great program and we’re rather excited about becoming its sponsor.”

But it’s not just the music school in flux, it’s most programs.

Matthew Miller, 23, a pre-nursing major at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, had planned to transfer to IPFW for his bachelor’s in nursing. But now the Kendallville resident is skeptical of what he called drastic changes to the campus.

“I am staying with Ivy Tech to get my LPN then after that is a mystery now until final decisions are made regarding IPFW,” Miller said. “Ivy Tech and IPFW are my only options because of cost and credibility. I feel like with any degree people need to make informed decisions. You do not want to go to a school that doesn’t have a good reputation.”

The nursing program will transfer from Purdue to IU.

Leaders of both universities visited IPFW on Monday and tried to address the concerns facing the students, faculty and community as a whole.

One man at that forum said he fears enrollment will go down and students will leave because the degrees will be devalued.

No one immediately answered the question, and IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein shut down the questions.

“They have planes to catch,” Carwein said.

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But Daniels interjected and said students will still be able to access all the courses offered today and lose nothing.

“All students are grandfathered in,” IU President Michael McRobbie said, promising all students will be allowed to finish their degree programs.

After the forum, Carwein said it’s possible some students might choose another school.

“But I will tell you that our recruiting for fall semester is strong,” she said. “And so despite all of this we’ve got record applications, we’ve got a large freshman class. A few Saturdays ago we had about 600 high school students and parents on campus and not one word was asked about this.”

nkelly@jg.net

Ron Shawgo of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.