Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why IPFW Feels Like Purdue's 'Stepchild'

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The seal of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne on the wall of a building on campus.

A prominent Fort Wayne-area state lawmaker repeated his charge Tuesday that IPFW is “treated like a stepchild” by its administrative masters at Purdue University.

It seems as though current and former officials at the regional campus are not angling for independence — at least for now — from Purdue or Indiana universities, which jointly run IPFW’s academic programs.

Instead, current and former IPFW officials criticized West Lafayette administrators for “keeping the campus at arm’s length, placing construction projects far down the priority list and leaving both IPFW and northeast Indiana unrepresented on the board of trustees,” as WIBC reports.

As the AP reports, it’s all part of IPFW officials’ case to lawmakers for more control over their own affairs.

From Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial writer Karen Francisco:

Former Chancellor Michael Wartell quickly dispelled any thoughts that everything here is “sweetness and light,” suggesting that IPFW has succeeded as much in spite of Purdue. “Willful failure to govern” was his precise description.

While he stopped short of pushing for autonomy, Wartell surely surprised a number of lawmakers in making his case that the West Lafayette leaders view IPFW and other regional campuses as much as competition as partners, “poaching” donors and deep-sixing capital requests…

Northeast Indiana Sens. Dennis Kruse and Jim Banks were responsible for today’s hearing; look for one or both to follow through with some sort legislation. Purdue has made some clumsy missteps in recent months, [such as] enforcing the retirement-age policy in Wartell’s case after ignoring it elsewhere.

With joint funding from IU, Purdue University has administered IPFW as a regional campus since the school opened in 1964.

Two weeks ago, we compared IPFW’s hypothetical split from IU and Purdue — creating an independent “Fort Wayne State University” — to a similar situation in Florida.

Many Fort Wayne-area students attend IPFW because of the draw of earning degrees from Purdue or IU, depending on the program, while still benefiting from the regional campus’s small-school feel. As Niki Kelly writes in the news pages of The Journal Gazette, administrators weigh proposals for increasing IPFW’s autonomy against the “value of diplomas from the state’s two flagship universities.”

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The St. Joseph River runs by the campus of IPFW in Fort Wayne.

“Not all institutions are perceived in equal value,” Kelly quotes acting Purdue provost Vic Lechtenberg as saying. “It’s very important to earn a degree, but it’s also important to recognize that Purdue and IU have franchise value.”

Lafayette Journal & Courier higher ed reporter Eric Weddle provides some context:

The subject of independence for the Fort Wayne campus has gone on for decades. But it has become more of a focus now as IPFW has grown; its enrollment of 13,771 makes it the fifth-largest campus in the state. Overall, enrollment has grown 17 percent in the past decade. Short of independence, some would like IPFW to have its own board of trustees that would oversee the campus and then report to Purdue’s system board, which now makes decisions for all its regional campuses.

Some lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, have said the forced retirement of 18-year IPFW chancellor Michael Wartell was a factor for the start of the discussion.

But Weddle also quotes IPFW vice chancellor Steven Sarratore as saying, while it’s challenging to work within the systems of both IU and Purdue, the school has managed to remain successful.

“I wouldn’t say anything is broken to the point of being a disaster,” Weddle quotes Sarratore as saying.


  • Real talk

    I think purdue has every right to oversee things at ipfw because of the irresponsible decisions ipfw as university make

    • jake

      Couldn’t agree more. As an engineering senior at IPFW (I’m graduating in 4yrs btw) I would LOVE to see more control from west lafayette. It would strengthen the value of my diploma and put IPFW administrators back in their place; under purdue’s thumb, where they belong.

      IPFW is a regional extension. As such, it SHOULD be controlled by purdue.

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