The Aftershock

November is usually a time to reflect on what you’re thankful for – the opportunity to have a quality education, for one, combined with two of the top universities in the state.

However, for some students at IPFW that was taken from them, by defunding liberal arts and humanities courses.

On Nov. 2 and 3 of 2016, students and faculty gathered in protest of the USAP recommendations, following the announcement of a split between Indiana and Purdue. Certain programs, such as women’s studies and philosophy, would be cut.

These reforms are in correlation with those across the nation. Universities in New York andIllinois have made cuts to humanities courses in recent years, while Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky was quoted by Inside Higher Education in September saying, “Public universities should consider cutting programs that don’t graduate students who are able to fill high-paying and in-demand jobs.”

According to some professors on campus, that is exactly what the university did following the USAP report.

“The focus here is on employability directly after graduation,” said Charlene Elsby, director of the philosophy program. “There is a long standing history of which kind of knowledge is more valuable and the professional degrees versus the liberal arts degrees.”

Elsby came to IPFW after finishing her Ph.D. in Canada back in 2014. She was on the tenure track here before the academic cuts took place. She was told tenured and tenure-track professors would not be affected.

“If I can determine excellence in teaching, research and service then I should be able to get tenure,” Elsby said. “However, I have received some communications to the effect that I should not expect for that to happen.”

Sophia Ulmer, professor of English and women’s studies, has only been at IPFW since the spring semester of 2017. She immediately saw the impacts of realignment.

“Of course I teach in women’s studies, so obviously people were very unhappy,” Ulmer said.

Ulmer said she feels extremely proud to work alongside Dr. Badia, who took a pay cut in order to keep the department running. But she’s less proud of working at IPFW, saying that after the decisions made last fall she is not impressed by the university.

“The first women’s study programs were in the early ‘70s and IPFW followed shortly after that,” Ulmer said. “It was special, it was cool, and I just wish that it was in a culture that valued women and the study of us.”

While women’s studies was able to resurrect itself with the sacrifices made by Professor Badia, the philosophy department was not so lucky.

Elsby said the faculty got a notice that some programs were on the chopping block in May of 2016. When the USAP report came out, there was a list of programs up for restructure.

“Last year was a shit show,” Elsby said.

Both professors Elsby and Ulmer are concerned about more cuts being made. Elsby pointed out the university can justify cuts when they see it appropriate and hopes they learned their lesson the last time.

“Hopefully, they will not only realize that these cuts were not well thought out,” Elsby said, “but that if they continue on this path it will continue not to be well received by our students and the general public.”

Women’s studies professor Ulmer said, that if the cuts keep happening it will begin to tarnish the reputation the school has built by offering Indiana University and Purdue University degrees.

Another thing that has Ulmer agitated is the $80,000 spent on the company Simpson Scarborough, who works with higher education institutions from its base in Alexandria, Virginia, that the university had brought in to help with the rebranding process.

Ulmer said she is grateful for the knowledge the liberal arts and humanities courses provided her with when she was earning her degree. Yet, she understands the other side of the topic.

A change to the campus that might affect the future of the philosophy department lies in the hands of the new Chancellor, as Elsby has high hopes for reinstating the philosophy program.

“What is a university without a philosophy program, like literally everyone who works here has a Ph. D. which stands for doctor in philosophy,” Elsby said. “It seems kind of contradictory to say that we do not teach philosophy here.”

IPFW Hopes to Pass Banded Tuition Proposal

Back in August of 2014, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education released a resolution to aid college students to graduate in four years.

The campaign urged undergraduate students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester.

Universities pushed for this by introducing something called banded tuition.

Angela Williams, the director of online and credit programs at IPFW, said banded tuition, if passed, would begin during the fall semester of 2018.

“We are one of the only schools right now that does not have banded tuition,” Williams said. “And with the online courses being the same price, well, that is a huge benefit to students.”

Besides IPFW, only a few other public institutions in the state of Indiana have not switched over to the banded tuition model, Williams said.

Diana Jackson, director of administrative business services at Indiana – Purdue Fort Wayne, explained banded tuition as a flat rate students pay instead of per-credit-hour.

“The band we are proposing will begin at 12 to 18 credit hours, so if you take anything in that band you are going to pay the same amount no matter what you take,” Jackson said. “It is just a set amount of tuition and the mandatory fees that students are required to take.”

Students who wish to take less than 12 credit hours a semester will continue to pay per-credit-hour, while those who would take more than 18 would pay the banded tuition plus per-credit hour for however many credits they would additionally take.

In this proposal, banded tuition will be roughly around $4,120.50, Jackson said.

However, banded tuition will not apply to graduate students or summer courses. Both would be paid per-credit-hour.

Additionally, the proposal is also planning to eliminate the cost difference between traditional courses and online courses. As of spring semester 2017 that difference was $92.95 per-credit-hour.

Under the banded tuition model, the online differential fee will no longer exist. Instead Jackson said a student could take 15 credit hours of just online courses and pay the same as if they were traditional courses.

According to Jackson, the Higher Education Commission had been pushing the banded tuition idea to universities.

“They really want kids to understand that in order to graduate in four years, which is what they really want,” Jackson said, “students really have to take 15 credit hours a semester in order to do that.”

Even though the model is still in the proposal stage and most of the faculty has heard about it, most students were at a lost when it was mentioned to them.

Linnize Richner, freshman biology major, had no prior knowledge of this proposal or what banded tuition meant. Yet, after learning about the idea and what it entailed she said it would be a good thing.

“I know a lot of students, myself included, hate the price difference for online courses,” Richner said. “I feel this could really help with that and stop putting limitations on certain students from being able to take a desired course because of the cost difference.”

Currently banded tuition is still just a proposal at IPFW and will go before the board of trustees in the coming months to make a final decision.

Jackson has no worries that the plan will pass.

“I do think it will happen,” Jackson said. “It will help a lot of students out and they’ll know every semester how much their tuition will be not matter what form of class they are taking.”

Hybrid Courses Gain Interest at IPFW

IPFW will be offering over 50 hybrid courses in the fall of 2017 ranging from topics over engineering economy to romantic literature.

Hybrid courses are designed to have online interaction while combining face-to-face instruction at the same time.

With 28 percent of students enrolled in higher education taking a form of distance learning, according to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Distance Education Enrollment Report of 2016, hybrid classes are becoming increasingly popular for their unusual structure than the typical online courses.

James Hess, a business professor at IPFW, is currently in his fifth year teaching hybrid courses and said he thinks there are both positive and negative attributes of the course.

One of the positives is hybrid courses meet half of the time in a classroom on campus and the other half online.

“Well, one plus is we only have to be here once a week, that itself can save people a lot of rear-end collisions,” Hess said with a chuckle. “The drawback is sometimes it can take more time to really focus on the foundational elements of a class then what we are allotted when we only meet 50 percent of the time.”

Students enrolled in Hess’ International Business Administration class meet once a week on Mondays, and during the class, he conducts a discussion with the students.

Following the meeting, the class is assigned a discussion board due on Wednesday nights that poses a question based off a topic discussed in class, as well as a current event each week.

Tanya Stier, a business marketing major enrolled in Hess’ course said hybrid courses are more beneficial for students than strictly online classes.

“Sometimes with just regular online courses it’s hard to convey a question or fully understand the material,” Stier said. “When you have the ability to see the professor you can ask your questions and have the professor explain it in person, which I think can be clearer than just asking over an email”.

Brittany Akins, another student in the course, said she has to give credit to Hess for how he organized the course and ties the lectures together with the assignments.

“He makes it relevant and worth my time rather than being a monotonous lecture two or three times a week, which can get overbearing,” Akins said. “We have assignments that are actually related to the lecture that we can do on our own time during the week.”

Akins continued to say the cost of a hybrid course did not bother her because she knows what she is getting out of it. However there was one aspect of the class that bothered her.

“I hate that in this class the book was included,” Akins said. “I could have bought the book for a lot less online. Instead they charge whatever the book price is into the cost of the class without giving us an option to buy it for less.”

Besides for the few unexpected costs, Hess recalled a time when hybrid courses first began and how he sees the future for them.

“At first I thought that by going hybrid, it gave universities a chance to experiment with classes that are traditionally meeting face-to-face all the time, a chance to cut back on some of that,” Hess said. “Yet, now I’m wondering if this is just something universities toy with right now and eventually everything will just go completely online.”