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Ivy Tech Community College has bought 27 acres of land next to its Franklin center and plans to expand by adding buildings and degree programs in the next decade.

The land purchase gives Ivy Tech the room to expand the center into a full-service regional campus in the future, but that likely wouldn’t occur for at least 10 years, said Tina Gross, executive director of the Franklin campus.

With a campus, Ivy Tech would be able to add buildings for classrooms and labs and would be able to expand its academic offerings from the three associate degree programs currently offered in Franklin.

“The 27 acres kind of establishes this as a permanent location of Ivy Tech. We have short-term plans to build out the additional 9,000 square feet of this building, and the long-term plan would be to request a capital project from the Indiana General Assembly for a true, full-service campus,” Gross said.

Since moving to a location just east of Interstate 65 in 2008, enrollment at the Franklin center has tripled from 459 students in 2008 to a high of 1,332 students in 2010. Currently, about 1,200 students are enrolled. About 65 percent of those students live in Johnson County, with another 16 percent coming from Indianapolis, according to the college.

The Franklin learning center offers three degree programs and training courses for local industries, Gross said. Expansion would allow the college to become a regional site, offering more courses, more degrees, additional staff and expanded services for admissions, financial aid and career planning.

The purchase was approved by the Ivy Tech board and foundation in late February. Ivy Tech paid $225,000 toward the purchase. The Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit group that was created and funded by the city, gave the college $400,000 in grant funds. The development group’s board approved the grant in October as one of four projects totaling $1.3 million.

The expansion process is a long one, and Ivy Tech will have to get approval and funding from the state legislature before any work could begin in Franklin, Gross said. As a public college, Ivy Tech receives funding from state tax dollars.

But having the available space is the first step in the process, Gross said. Other Ivy Tech campuses around the state were able to grow after buying or receiving donations of land.

“We’re talking 10 years probably. Realistically, we would have to get established on the college list of priorities. Those requests are only reviewed at the General Assembly on a biannual basis,” Gross said.

First, officials plan to renovate the remaining space in the center, which totals about 9,000 square feet, to add classrooms, labs and offices, Gross said.

Ivy Tech has offered classes in Franklin for decades, in multiple locations including the former high school and Johnson Memorial Hospital.

In 2008, Ivy Tech moved to its current, 30,000-square-foot building at 2205 McClain Drive near I-65 and State Road 44. The Franklin Redevelopment Commission gave the college a total of $450,000 in funds collected from special taxing districts to help with renovations of the McClain Drive site.

The college has invested about $2 million in the Franklin center, according to a news release.

College officials approached the Franklin Development Corp. last year about getting help with funding the purchase of the land needed for the expansion. The organization had sought proposals for how to spend $1.3 million. The board approved giving the college $400,000, requiring Ivy Tech to raise the rest of the money needed to buy the land.

The board approved the grant with a 4-3 vote. Franklin Development Corp. board president Larry Koenes, who also serves as a regional trustee for Ivy Tech-Columbus/Franklin, voted in favor of the grant.

Koenes said that he disclosed his position with Ivy Tech and was told by board attorney Rob Schafstall that there was no conflict of interest rules to prevent him from voting. Schafstall was not available for comment.

Koenes said the project was a good investment of the organization’s money and will allow the college to provide more services to the community in the future.

“That will purchase the property out by their location and preserve that with the idea that they’re one of the fastest-growing regional campuses around the state,” he said.

Board member John Ditmars, one of the three board members who voted against the grant for Ivy Tech, said he didn’t think funding the land purchase was a bad project but felt at the time that there were other local proposals that could have benefited more from the organization’s money.

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