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Fort Wayne needs a more robust university

Friday, March 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

On Jan. 31, Gov. Daniels made his first visit to IPFW. During this visit, when asked about the fact that IPFW ranked 13th in per capita funding from the state of Indiana among the 15 state colleges and universities in Indiana, the new Purdue president reportedly remarked, “Somebody’s gonna be 13th.”

I expected a response to this comment at some point from IPFW administrators, our state legislators and our community leaders, but no such reaction has been forthcoming. Given this absence, I feel the need to weigh in.

I’ll begin by noting that Gov. Daniels said more on the subject than this quote captures, and part of what he said is that IPFW and other universities must do a better job managing the monies they do receive, and they must do a better job helping students complete college.

All of this is true. However, some other facts are true that neither Gov. Daniels, nor our legislators, seem to be paying any attention to. Here are some facts.

1. Research universities like Purdue and IU are major economic catalysts for the regions they serve. The presence of university research laboratories creates innovation, new companies and jobs.

2. Fort Wayne is the 74th largest city in the United States, and the second largest city in Indiana.

3. If you look closely at the 100 largest cities in the U.S., you’ll find that virtually without exception, every one of them has a large research university close by (within 20 miles).

4. Fort Wayne is the exception, and that should trouble each one of us.

Fort Wayne needs IPFW to become a more robust research institution. This is necessary for Fort Wayne to grow jobs today and to train the innovators and entrepreneurs who will grow jobs tomorrow. It won’t happen overnight. IPFW has neither the physical infrastructure nor the administrative infrastructure to become such an institution today. However, it needs to begin moving in that direction. And that move cannot occur until IPFW receives per-capita funding more in line with its status as the fifth-largest state university.

This is an issue where our leaders need to step up to the plate. As Senate majority leader, David Long should have at least some influence on IPFW’s budget. And Gov. Daniels, as president of the Purdue University system, needs to step up and advocate for IPFW.

Finally, our mayor, and our other community leaders need to take a stand regarding the future of IPFW. This issue is not simply about the wishes of IPFW faculty, rather it is an issue about the future economic growth of our region.

Given Fort Wayne’s size, doesn’t it need a more robust university? Compared to other large cities of its size, why is Fort Wayne so underserved in this area?