The report you are about to read summarizes a collaboration found nowhere else in American higher education. Nearly one-third of IU’s faculty, staff, and students work, teach, learn, and create on our regional campuses. These campuses are an indispensable part of Indiana University’s commitment to serving the people of Indiana, and are an increasingly innovative part of a higher education sector that generates more baccalaureate degrees than any other.
The collaboration among the five Regional Campuses of Indiana University is focused and intentional, and forms the basis of Blueprint 2.0: The Strategic Plan for the Regional Campuses of Indiana University. Collaboration has not only become an intrinsic aspect of each campus’s identity, it has also helped to focus the efforts of the regional campuses as a whole for the benefit of their students, their communities, and the state of Indiana. We believe that this collaboration is essential for the long-term sustainability of these campuses. Regional comprehensive institutions like the IU regional campuses are the workhorses of American higher education. In their 2019 report “Squeezed from All Sides,” Inside Higher Ed notes that such institutions produce nearly 40 percent of all baccalaureate degrees in the United States, by far the most of any sector. Yet, these campuses are also the most vulnerable to increasing budgetary and demographic challenges in the increasingly competitive higher education landscape. As Moody’s notes in their 2020 Outlook for Higher Education, “Regional public universities, particularly moderately sized and smaller ones, will be among the most constrained for revenue growth because of flat to declining enrollment and limited revenue diversity beyond state funding and in-state tuition.” The Blueprint collaboration has not only allowed the IU regional campuses to thrive in this challenging context, but it has also brought well-deserved national recognition to these campuses as a model for the kind of cooperation that will allow smaller campuses to thrive in this environment. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the largest national organization representing such institutions, has recognized the positive impact that collaboration has had on the IU regional campuses in terms of both student success (through its Re-Imagining the First Year of College initiative) and community engagement (through its American Democracy Project).
This recognition highlights the two pillars of the regional campus mission. These campuses are, at their hearts, learner-focused and community-engaged. As higher education institutions, the regional campuses exist primarily to educate; creating the conditions within which every student has the opportunity to succeed and earn an IU degree is each campus’s highest priority. A core component of our student success work is in the form of collaborative academic programs. Over the last five years, the IU regional campuses have developed 15 new collaborative, online academic programs, such as the Chancellors’ Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Many regional campus students have work and family commitments that, in a more traditional context, would impose barriers to degree completion. These programs afford students the flexibility to complete degrees while also attending to their non-academic responsibilities.
This close attention to the success of our students extends to our communities and regions as well. As public institutions, our regional campuses are engaged in the communities, serving as cultural and economic hubs to help to build and sustain thriving communities and, by extension, a thriving state. AASCU defines such institutions as “Stewards of Place,” meaning the public comprehensive universities like the IU regional campuses have an obligation to use their extensive intellectual capital in the service of some of their regions’ most pressing challenges, using applied research and service learning to address challenges such as food insecurity and access to health care. At no time has the regional campuses’ commitment to their students and their regions been more important than in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at no point has their collaboration served them better. The ways that we work together—the organizational structures and consultation processes outlined in Blueprint 2.0 and the present report—allowed the regional campuses to mobilize quickly and seamlessly in the March 2020 move to full distance learning for the spring and summer terms. As Indiana began its phased re-opening in May 2020, the regional campuses had already begun to institute the kinds of flexibility they would need to protect student, faculty, staff, and community health and safety, while delivering multi-modal instruction in a social and educational environment profoundly altered by the pandemic. Standing alone, many institutions of the size of the IU regional campuses have struggled, and some may fail. As an integral part of Indiana University, and as an experienced collaborative enterprise, the regional campuses can confidently look forward to weathering the present storm and, indeed, to emerging as stronger individual institutions and a stronger collectivity.
The successes of the Blueprint 2.0 collaborations detailed herein demonstrate the commitment of University Academic Affairs (UAA) to supporting the regional campuses. Most importantly, however, they demonstrate the commitment of the faculty, staff, and administrators on these campuses to positively transforming the lives of their students and their communities.
John S. Applegate
Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs