Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann insists shorter courses are better.
More than half of Ivy Tech classes are eight-week courses rather than the more traditional 16 weeks because students perform better.
“When we did research around the country, every community college was experiencing that,” Ellspermann said during a Westfield Chamber of Commerce address July 18 at The Bridgewater Club. “When you get around Week 10, life gets in the way and you just give up. When we do in an eight-week format, they can see completion. They take more classes. If you are part-time, you take the first eight weeks and then you take the second eight weeks. They get more courses and they move more quickly.”
Ellspermann said there are higher passing rates and lower drop rates with eight-week courses.
Ellspermann, who served as Indiana Lieutenant Governor under then-Gov. Mike Pence from 2013 to March 2016, was named president of Ivy Tech in May 2016. She began in July.
There are more than 40 Ivy Tech locations, including one in Noblesville. Ellspermann said Indiana’s success depends on Ivy Tech.
“The need for those middle-skill jobs, the nurses you have in your hospitals, the employees you have running your equipment, you need the skills that we provide,” she said. “We base our strategic plan on what Indiana needs. We know in the future, 60 percent of jobs are going to require some kind of post-secondary (work).”
Ellspermann said the vision is to have 50,000 credentials earned a year aligned with the needs of the community.
“We are not just saying come in and do any major you want,” Ellspermann said. “We want to make sure that those students are pursuing credentials that have high value to you as employers and making sure they can get middle-range kinds of jobs that will lead to success and prosperity for them and their families.”
Ellspermann said 8 percent of Ivy Tech students are first-time, full-time students. She said 68 percent of the students are part-time and primarily adult students. The average graduation age is approximately 30.
“A quarter of our students have dependents, so they are your single moms and they are trying to better themselves,” she said. “When you come into Ivy Tech, it doesn’t look like a traditional four-year school. We have many 18-year-olds but we have many more of those that look like the people in the room (at Bridgewater). When I meet people in the hall, I never know if they are faculty or students.”
Ellspermann said students often struggled because they get pushed to go to college but don’t know what they want to pursue.
“At Ivy Tech, you can do your first two years toward a four-year degree or you can come get that credential, whether it’s (registered nurse), welding or IT or cyber security, software development, which will get you a great career in a year or two year or whatever pace,” she said.
She said the average Ivy Tech student works 35 to 40 hours a week while going to school.
The first goal of the strategic plan is making sure every student succeeds, Ellspermann said.
“Many of our students, because they are adults, many have tried college and not been too successful before. Many don’t come as prepared as they’d like to be,” she said. “One of our first goals is to make sure their basic needs are met. Seventy-two percent of single moms will never complete college and of those that do go to college, 90 percent are low income. Put yourselves in those shoes, how difficult it is to gain a credential or degree in that manner.”
Ellspermann said Ivy Tech had 150,000 students during the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) to 100,000 or traditional revenue-generating students today.
“Everybody who wants a job has one. The bad news is they are not all good jobs,” she said. “They are not the promising kinds of jobs that lead to middle income that Hoosiers need to have.”