State support for Ball State education still lacking

The Daily News

Ball State is receiving additional state funding for the first time in the last two biennium, but it’s still in a dire funding situation.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education originally proposed an $11.4 million cut for Ball State to the legislature in December, but thanks to an overall increase in higher education funding by the state, that number dwindled to less than $750,000 lost in state appropriations. The university ended up 2.8 percent better than the last budget cycle after one of its capital requests, entrepreneurial university, was granted $6.7 million in funding.

As President Jo Ann Gora has fought for Ball State’s educational strategy in the state, she has been met with resistance. She has fought the performance-based formula, which she has said favors large and growing campuses, and advocated for increasing the university’s selectivity. She has stuck by the same strategy despite watching the state drain money from Ball State due to the university’s poor performance in ICHE’s metrics. One of the university’s biggest strategic goals has been increasing immersive learning, which continues to grow across campus.

Some may think Ball State’s additional funding is a result of the state’s faith in where Gora is taking the university, but it’s just not the case ¬— yet.

The state gave the university more funding, but it’s mainly because of the renewed funding for higher education as a whole. Indiana increased operating appropriations of public institutions a total of 3.8 percent in the next biennium. The state is edging closer to recognizing Ball State’s educational commitment, but it won’t show the support the university needs until its performance-based formulas start rewarding institutions for their quality educational initiatives.

Even in Gora’s presentation to the Senate Appropriations Committee in March, Sen. Brent Waltz questioned the university’s educational goals and its possible financial implications. 

“Is Ball State going down the right road from a financial perspective, not from the educational perspective, but from a financial perspective?” he said. “Are we doing the right thing by the taxpayers of the state or are some of these projects better left toward maybe some of the higher end private universities and colleges that Indiana and surrounding states would have?”

That sounds far from a seal of approval from the Indiana statehouse.

I agree with the strategies Ball State has taken to improve academically. I have embraced them and enjoyed the opportunities it has given me. But the statehouse isn’t quite on board with Ball State’s strategies like many of us are and it shows in the funding. Even when it’s more, it’s still far less growth than institutions like Purdue, Indiana and Ivy Tech.

“You always want to think that however our state chooses to fund higher education, [it does] it in a way that makes the most sense,” Bernie Hannon, associate vice president of business affairs and assistant treasurer, said. “I think a lot of us feel like we really ought to have a system that rewards quality and rewards improving institutions that want to get better, not just bigger.”

The university needs more than what it has been getting. That’s why Gora has made her case time after time with state legislators. And it’s why Ball State is still going to fight for performance-based measures that factor in institutions improving the quality of the education, not just the quantity of degrees completed.


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