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School plans $2M expansion to meet needs of students

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Ivy Tech is planning a $2 million expansion at its Franklin campus to add new science labs, classrooms, offices and a library. PHOTO BY STEVE GARBACZ
Ivy Tech is planning a $2 million expansion at its Franklin campus to add new science labs, classrooms, offices and a library. PHOTO BY STEVE GARBACZ

More students continue to enroll at Ivy Tech Community College in Franklin, and the school is planning a $2 million project to build new science labs, classrooms and offices.

Enrollment at the Franklin learning center has grown by 50 percent since 2008, making it one of Ivy Tech’s fastest-growing campuses statewide. The Columbus region, which includes Franklin, is growing the fastest in central Indiana. The growth has college officials considering expansions.

Franklin’s center has added two degree programs this year in criminal justice and information technology in response to growing enrollment. An expansion also is planned to start within two years to add two science labs, classrooms, office space and a student library in space not currently being used, Franklin campus executive director Tina Gross said.

The Franklin center is located in a former warehouse on the city’s east side near Interstate 65 and currently is using about 21,000 square feet of the 33,000-square-foot building. The expansion would fill the rest of the building by renovating the empty space on the east side of the center, which is being used for storage. That project is estimated to cost about $2 million, and the college likely will use funds from private fundraising to pay for the construction, Gross said.

The statewide college system is facing a funding shortfall of about $68 million that is preventing the hiring of more full-time staff and counselors systemwide, Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said. Officials are looking for ways to reduce spending and are considering cuts, including closing up to 20 centers. But the Franklin learning center is not facing significant changes due to its rapid growth, he said.

One of the main goals of the planned project in Franklin would be to add two science labs, which would allow more students to take science courses in Franklin, Gross said.

Currently, students enrolled in science courses attend class at Franklin Community High School, but only at certain times during the day and night. And since science credits are required for several Ivy Tech programs, some students have to travel to Indianapolis or

Columbus because local classes are full.

The project also would add about five classrooms, eight to 10 offices for staff, a library and student bookstore. Office space is also a high priority, since the college must have at least one full-time faculty member on staff for each degree offered, Gross said.

Gross wants the Franklin campus to be able to offer six more degrees in the next five years, including starting a nursing program, and will need the additional class space, she said.

Ivy Tech Franklin added the criminal justice and information technology degrees, so now the 115 students enrolled in those programs won’t have to transfer to other locations to finish their classwork.

“We feel that its very important to be able to allow a student to come here and take their full degree. A lot of students have anxiety about going to other campuses or don’t have the financial means to travel to other campuses. And we’re trying to expand the portfolio of degrees, so they can come here and stay here for two years,” she said.

If enrollment continues to climb in Franklin, the college could consider adding another building within the five-year range, prior to plans to expand to a larger campus, Ivy Tech Columbus/Franklin spokesman Randy Proffitt said. Ivy Tech spent $625,000 to purchase 27 acres of land next to the learning center earlier this year to make way for an expansion that would likely be 10 or more years away. The Franklin Development Corp., a not-for-profit organization created and funded with city tax dollars, provided a $400,000 grant for that land purchase.

Although Ivy Tech’s statewide funding is limited, the continued growth and community support in Franklin are positives that will help keep the long-term plans on the schedule, Proffitt said.

The community college’s short-term plans include adding a new building at the Columbus campus in 2015, Proffitt said.

Fall enrollment for the Columbus region increased 3 percent to 4,424 students, and the region is in need of more space for classes due to continuing growth, according to a news release.

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