Reaching higher: higher education targets economic development.

Author:McKimmie, Kathy

PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES are inextricably linked to Indiana's ability to compete for the best jobs in growth industries. Their impact ranges from breakthrough research leading to high-tech start-ups to on-site worker training programs. "But more broadly, there are 300,000 students in college every year that are going to be entering the workforce," says Stan Jones, commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

In its "Reaching Higher: Strategic Directions for Indiana" report the commission established several economic development recommendations and is pushing for funding in the 2009-2011 budget--a tough sell in this economy. Incentive funding for IU, Purdue and IUPUI, begun in 2002, would continue if they are successful in capturing additional federal research grants. "In the governor's recommendation it's included, albeit at a lower level," says Jones. It also supports funding for IU and Purdue's year-old collaboration in the life sciences called the Indiana Innovation Alliance--the toughest sell. Then there's $500,000 for Ivy Tech and Vincennes University to deliver more on-site training programs for businesses. "Those are three areas where I think we are making some modest progress; modest because of the state's fiscal outlook," says Jones. Absent from the radar screen are earlier recommendations from both the commission and the governor to provide two years of free college tuition.


Indiana Innovation Alliance. Through the Indiana Innovation Alliance, IU and Purdue will leverage their core strengths, says Bill Stephan, IU'S vice president for engagement. These strengths include infrastructure, equipment, faculty and students, to support or complement the work that's going on in the private sector. Indiana has reached a level of distinction nationally in life sciences, he says, but without additional funding "there's the risk that we'll lose momentum."

Together, Purdue and IU have requested $35 million for each year of the next biennium, $70 million total. The request built on a $20 million appropriation for life sciences in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation's budget that was to become available in July 2008, says Stephan, but that has not been released due to the state's economic woes.

"We've had a division of labor over the decades traced back to our originating charters that puts engineering at Purdue, medicine at IU, agriculture at Purdue, and so on," says Vic Lechtenberg, Purdue's vice...

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