Low Graduation Rates Could Hurt Skills Gap Partner

Low Graduation Rates Could Hurt Skills Gap Partner

Low graduation rates could hurt funding for a school that's helping draft a major advanced manufacturing program. 

A community college involved in a multi-state industrial technology maintenance certification program may be in danger of losing workforce training funds because of low graduation rates.  

Two weeks ago, Ivy Tech Community College, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills and Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) announced the certification program. Some 40,000 job openings exist for certified industrial technology maintenance specialists in the I-75 corridor, with just over 2,000 workers currently qualified to fill them, according to NIMS’ analysis of job ads in the area.

Since then, Ivy Tech, Indiana’s statewide community college system, has made news for its low graduation rates in some areas. Yesterday, the publication Inside Higher Ed reported that Ivy Tech could lose state workforce training funds because less than 28% of its students complete their associate degree or certification within six years.

Federal rules changed last year, requiring states to keep better track of student outcomes in workforce training programs.

Overall, 5.2% of full-time Ivy Tech students complete their degree or certificate within two years, and 27.7% within six years, according to graduation data from the Indiana Commission of Higher Education.

According to an updated 2015 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 29% of full-time students at two-year colleges graduated within three years. The report, however, did not include data on the percentage of students graduating within six years.

Indiana Department of Workforce Development spokesman Joe Frank said in the Inside Higher Ed article that Ivy Tech receives about $6.5 million in state workforce innovation dollars and is the largest of the state’s providers.

Kelly Hauflaire, spokeswoman for Ivy Tech, said today in an email that “nothing has changed with the industrial maintenance program we offer here at the College and the programs themselves are not driven by state workforce dollars.” 

The $6.5 million in state Workforce Investment Act dollars, funneled through the federal government, comes from tuition for students who attend Ivy Tech through the state’s workforce development program. Overall, that money is a small percentage of the college’s budget, Hauflaire said.

Hauflaire could not say what the graduation rates were specifically for manufacturing and technology programs at Ivy Tech. Ivy Tech also offers associate degrees and certificates in areas unrelated to manufacturing, such as fine arts and dental hygiene.

“Because so many of our students are part time and not cohort-based, we don’t have specific [graduation] rates by program that are readily available,” she said. “It would take some time for our Institutional Research department to create reports based on program [graduation] rates.”

A representative from NIMS did not respond today to a request for an interview.

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