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IUN's Proposed Response 

To The Economic Crisis in Northwest Indiana

Submitted by IUN's Department of Sociology and Anthropology

 

The Problem:

     Chancellor Bergland and President Brand have asked the faculty at Indiana University to respond to the challenges presented to our country and state resulting from the horrific bombings on 9/11 that have damaged the heart and soul of our nation.  Much attention has been paid to the immediate and direct affects of the bombings by the media and government at all levels.  As the faculty of Indiana University Northwest, we recognize the effects of the immediate devastation on 9/11 and are also gaining increased awareness of the ripple effects felt throughout the U.S. economy with the steel industry currently experiencing death nail blows.  We are also beginning to understand that Northwest Indiana is experiencing its own 9/11 due to the devastation of the local economy akin to the degree of economic dislocation currently being experienced by New Yorkers in the aftermath of those bombings.  We are not arguing that the current deterioration of the regional economy has been caused directly by the September 11th bombings as the steel belt has been "sliding down the slippery slope" of de-industrialization for several decades.  However, the effects of the "New War on Terrorism" has hastened our regional decline due to shifting political priorities and the shrinking surplus of federal and state revenues to support international and domestic defense, making the bailout of the steel industry a non-priority.
 
     As reported in regional newspapers, Representative Visclosky has made numerous attempts in past months to obtain federal support for the steel industry, yet Congress has not been interested in bailing out what is perceived as an outdated and non-profitable industry.  The past few weeks and months have unveiled the deepening of our regional economic crisis as the de-industrialization of Northwest Indiana has reached a feverish pitch signaled by massive layoffs due to Bethlehem's filing of bankruptcy and the impending closure of LTV promising more layoffs to come.  Not only are direct steel workers affected by this economic crisis, but the effects will ripple throughout other sectors of our economy across our seven county region, with industries across regional economic sectors expected to experience extensive hits (i.e. supplier industries, construction, as well as retail employment).  This is a propitious time for Indiana University Northwest to demonstrate our commitment to the vision of IUN by situating our programs in relation to this de-industrialization process.
 
     A recent report on the economy of Northwest Indiana was discussed in area newspapers.  The economic analysis concluded that Northwest Indiana cannot attract new industries until we have a more highly skilled workforce.  This current economic crisis presents IUN with an opportunity to move forward as the institution leading our region from its industrialized past, through the current period of de-industrialization, into a re-industrialized future.  If we take some well-planned steps, IUN could also benefit moving us toward educational renewal as we secure our place as the premiere educational institution of Northwest Indiana.
 

Proposed Contribution of IUN to Regional Revitalization

     IUN has been engaged in the visioning process for the past two years.  As a result of that lengthy process, we developed areas of excellence, one of which is the vitality of the region as we serve the seven counties of Northwest Indiana.  Our Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs has urged us to engage in more community outreach and service to articulate more directly with the needs of our citizens.  Hence, we are proposing that IUN make a direct contribution to the region by allowing laid-off workers to enroll in our courses for free until our sections are filled.  From such an effort, we would be assisting the region by providing a more highly educated workforce that the business community needs in order to attract more industries to the area.  IUN could promote itself as the regional emergency educational response center by aiding Northwest Indiana at this propitious time.  We have the opportunity to turn a devastating situation into one for regional and campus renewal that could benefit us in the near and distant future by developing deep inroads into this region as we build a more extensive network of multi-generational commitment to this institution.  Our billboards have said, "This is Your IUN."  Now is the time to prove that IUN is really here to serve our citizens in a time of need.  The faculty at Indiana University Northwest have been asked to engage in community service and this is our response to that timely request.

Funding Issues and Opportunities

      A number of us have been researching possible issues that could be raised regarding such a proposal.  The most obvious one is how can we offer such an opportunity at no cost to IUN?  We realize that filling seats that, although would be otherwise empty, with students for free might be considered a budgetary loss to our institution. However, there is precedent at IU East for charging in-state rates for out-of- state students.  In a conversation with Ben Young at IU East, we learned that they developed rationale to allow out-of-state students to enroll at in-state rates even though that could have been perceived as a 150% loss of revenue.  They made the argument successfully to President Brand and the Board of Trustees that they were not incurring additional costs by granting out-of-state students to enroll at in-state rates because IU East would have been offering those sections without that additional enrollment.  Hence, the institution would not lose money, but would be picking up more students from adjacent Ohio counties at the lower rate.  Although the Commission on Higher Education would not allow IU East to count those students in their enrollment change figures, the administration at IU East argued that they were still making additional revenue from the extra in-state rate that the Ohio students were paying.  We also learned that IV Tech has a program that allows retirees 60 years of age and over to take college courses, tuition free. We are suggesting that IUN adopt a similar program targeting laid-off workers in our region with hopes that they will continue the pursuit of a degree at IUN as regular paying students once they regain employment.  An argument, similar to that made by IU East, can be posed in this situation, as IUN would not incur additional costs from allowing more students to enroll in classes that are already offered and that would otherwise be left with some empty chairs.  We would also expect that such an opportunity would eventually lead us toward increased paid enrollment in the future as our students are able to regain employment.

     In addition to creative budget management, we have done a considerable amount of brainstorming to develop supplementary ideas.  The 9/11 bombings have drawn significant levels of contribution to victim-relief funds earmarked for families and the surrounding neighborhoods in New York City that have been devastated environmentally and economically.  Northwest Indiana has taken indirect hits from that catastrophe.  This could be a time for our campus to draw our region together by soliciting donations for the Northwest Indiana 9/11 fund to assist laid-off workers needing to rebuild their lives by pursuing a college education.  We are requesting that this administration seek funding sources as well as pursue marketing strategies to develop a fund drive to pay the tuition for laid-off workers.  Time is of essence, so this would need immediate attention in order to get prospective students into our sections by the second week in January.  We know that the administration has been successful in building relationships with the business community and we are asking that they find a way to direct those relationships toward re-educating our citizens in their time of need.

    We would also like to propose the possible use of I.O.U.s as a form of voucher system to enable workers to "take" our courses now and pay for them later.  It is possible to develop a system where students could sit in our courses and fulfill the requirements, yet defer their formal enrollment for credit hours until a time when they could pay.  This would be an attractive way for people to spend their time off from work constructively, yet we would not be recording the receipt of their hours until they can either pay or secure money from a grant or loan.  Once again, creative administration would be needed to facilitate such a scheme in a timely matter to meet our January deadlines.
 
     We are also fortunate to have an already established program for adult learners returning to college, the Swingshift College Program. The student-centered scheduling and support services of Swingshift would give us an advantage over any other institution in Northwest Indiana in terms of assisting the unemployed. We would like to emphasize our public relations and outreach on the Swingshift College program between now and registration. The availability of one-day-week, swing-shifted classes with videotaping should prove very attractive to any adult seeking to continue his or her education. As far as we know there has never been a billboard or advertisement highlighting Swingshift. All of our faculty members who have taught in this program speak about the excellence of the program and the outstanding achievements of the students. We would like to be able to include more courses in their customized format so that we can draw more steel workers covered by educational funding as well as laid off workers to our campus (See the Attachment for Swingshift College financial figures).

     If  IUN can respond during this time of economic crises, we would be able to demonstrate that we are committed to serving our region.  Our vision statement suggests that we need to engage in community service, and this proposal would provide us with the opportunity to make a significant contribution to this region.  It will require administrative creativity and flexibility as well as faculty willingness to teach larger classes with the extra work that more students will bring.  It would be a giant step toward situating ourselves firmly within IUN's mission by serving our citizens in a time of great need and stress.  Working together, we can make it happen!

ATTACHMENT: FINANCIAL ANALYSIS OF SWINGSHIFT COLLEGE

Enrollment fees
Mill Average Expenditure per year in dollars
Joblink, Inland Steel/ISPATUSWA 1010 29,285.95
USX, Gary WorksUSWA 1014, 1066, 2695 26,873
Midwest National Steel USWA 6103 and 8985 11,787.50
Bethlehem SteelUSWA 6787 and 9144 67,757.12
LTVUSWA 1011 22,331.27
Total Yearly Tuition 158,034.84

A SUMMARY OF ICD'S IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS TO SWINGSHIFT COLLEGE:

From 1994 to 1995, twenty-nine 3-credit sections and 8 full-day classes have been held at the USWA Bethlehem Learning Center.   The site use was donated to IUN by Bethlehem and totaled 216 days.  Using a conservative figure of $150 per day, based on other outside classroom rental fees, the total in-kind contribution for classroom rental is $32,400.00.   JobLink at Inland/ISPAT also contributes classroom space.   For 135 days, the total in-kind contribution is $20,250.    This semester, we began using Midwest/National's Career Development Center for courses and will continue next semester.
 The ICD and individual career development centers allow Swingshift College advisors to use their sites for registration and counseling.  All five centers duplicate our publicity material and course handouts at their own expense.  They advertise our courses in their bulletins and publications.   All of the sites that provide classroom space also provide VCRs, monitors, flip charts, paper, and overheads for our use.
 
 By only looking at the in-kind contribution of classrooms, the total for 1995-2000 is $52,600, making the average in-kind $10,500.  Adding a conservative estimate of  $500 a year for other services, the average in-kind contribution totals $11,000 per year.


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