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Panel addresses issues in higher education

Nicole Michels | Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Indiana colleges play a major role in encouraging high school students to attend college, according to a panel discussion with state leaders in politics and education Monday evening.

The panel began the 72nd annual conference of the Indiana Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (IACRO) that will be hosted at Notre Dame this week. Representatives from universities around the state gather during the conference to talk about issues facing Indiana’s higher education.

Richard Ludwick, former provost at St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, now serves as the president and CEO of IACRO. He said more Indiana students have access to higher education than ever before.

“A cultural shift, encouraged by leaders in higher education, has helped to drive innovations in all of our communities where the institutions make access and the actual degree much more likely,” Ludwick said.

Universities need to continue to push students to apply to college and look into their options in higher education, he said. These students will then be better prepared for the job market with a college degree.

“If we prepare students to be well-educated so that they can acquire those skills no matter what the future of the economy is, then that’s really the best education that we can give them,” Ludwick said.

Jeff Rea, former Mishawaka mayor and current president and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce, said the “brain drain” issue plagues many schools in Indiana. More students choose to leave the state to find further education and jobs elsewhere, he said.

Rea said more viable job opportunities need to be available for new college graduates and university peer networks can help educate alumni about these openings.

Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan said the state government needs to work with universities to maximize opportunities for students to afford a college education.

“The goal would be to make sure that every kid in Indiana that wants to go to college gets to go because the resources would be in place to do that,” Kernan said. “We’re a long way from that.”

The state and local governments need to continue to collaborate with universities and colleges to encourage high school students to go to college, Kernan said. This partnership is critical to these students’ futures.

“The only way to guarantee that we achieve the kinds of results that we all know are necessitated by this globally competitive world is to continue to work together and to collaborate to do what’s best for our universities, colleges and our communities,” he said.

University Registrar Chuck Hurley, a former president of IACRO, said Indiana universities need to continue innovating and using new technology to attract students to higher education.

“People in the registrar and admissions areas have thought about their duties in a very traditional fashion,” Hurley said. “Because of the state of the current economy and the fast pace of modern technology we have had to think about innovative ways to do registration and all types of things, and how to continue to be much bigger players now in the global economy.”