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Indiana Universities Make Budget Pitches To Senate Lawmakers

Michael McRobbie testifying at the statehouse

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee. (Zach Herndon, WFIU/WTIU News)

Indiana’s public universities made their funding requests to Senate legislators Tuesday as that chamber’s budget hearings are underway.

The state’s Commission for Higher Education began the hearing by telling lawmakers the number of people completing degrees is up 15 percent over the last five years.

The university presidents emphasized that progress. Indiana University President Michael McRobbie says his institution’s online classes are a major factor.

"More than 30,000 IU students are enrolled in at least one online course … that’s about a third of the total student body of the university," McRobbie says.

McRobbie touted the high performance of the university's Bloomington campus but warned lawmakers that expecting more from the campus could lead to unwarranted funding cuts.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for it to be rewarded under the current metric calculations," he says. "There’s just only so much more we can squeeze out of that campus’ performance, compared even to national comparisons."

McRobbie also noted IU’s request for $9 million in facility upgrades and asked legislators to consider that IU’s top priority moving forward.

"Maintaining our existing facilities is both essential for education and teaching, and it is essential to maximize external research funding," he says.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels used his pitch to emphasize his university’s continued push toward lowering the cost to students.

"Last year, I was very pleased when we saw that 58 percent of our graduates left with zero debt," Daniels says.

Ball State President Geoff Mearns related that idea of value to the state as a whole.

"More than 70 percent of our graduates stay in the state of Indiana," Mearns says.

The House version of the budget increases university funding less than the Commission for Higher Education recommends. The Senate budget draft will come out in the next few weeks.

This post has been updated.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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