The Indiana University system of main and regional campuses grew from an early and continuing policy of its administrations to take education to the people if the people could not come to the institution. At first, two or three faculty members traveled to the cities from which requests had come for classes in certain courses. Subsequently extension centers were established when the demand and favorable circumstances warranted. Ultimately there developed the vigorous regional campus system that, with the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, constitutes Indiana University as we know it today. Robert E. Cavanaugh has written a detailed history of this development.1
Why did the development take that form rather than that of a public junior college system, a two-year extension of high school, in the state? One reason was the failure of several junior colleges that were begun. Another, more telling reason was, I believe, a realization of the clear advantages to be gained from association with an established university. The benefits of full integration with a parent institution such as sharing its administrative and library resources, prestige, and academic maturity while forming its own individuality as a smaller, more locally oriented educational center undoubtedly were persuasive elements in the decision of a civic group to seek establishment of a branch of Indiana University in its community rather than found an independent junior college. The efficiency and economy that result are advantageous both to the state and to the student. The viability of the branching system is one evidence of the remarkable variety, diversity, and flexibility of higher education in America.
It is not well known that both our Gary and Kokomo campuses were originally public school-connected junior colleges, which had been in existence for some years but which, after their initial success, had languished. Community leaders in each city approached us, requesting that we consider taking over the junior college as it then existed and converting it into an extension center (later called a regional campus) in the Indiana University system. We proceeded only after being assured that the public school administrators as well as the civic and business leaders were in favor of the affiliation. Since these communities could be justifiably served by Indiana University, both having sent many students to the Bloomington campus through the years and having a large number of alumni resident in their areas, we decided that it was an appropriate move for us to make. In both instances the takeover of the existing programs by the university resulted in a rapid and immediate increase in student interest and enthusiasm and therefore in a much more successful operation than had been possible before. So far as I can tell, this resulted not because the programs had been poor before, for they had not been, but because having Indiana University’s imprimatur for the courses made students in the communities much more interested in enrolling and much more willing to undertake their college work at home.
Through the years many communities approached us asking us to start extension centers. In each instance we responded to the request with reasonable interest. We did so by making a careful survey of the community—its potential, its high school graduates, the presence or absence of a private institution either in the community or nearby offering collegiate work for the high school graduates—and on this basis decided if we should or should not establish a campus there. We were sometimes charged with a desire to spread everywhere, but in actuality we turned down far more communities than we entered. If we learned that the volume of student interest was too small to make the operation viable or if we thought its needs for collegiate training for high school graduates could be served by existing private colleges in the vicinity, we declined the invitation accordingly. One of the benchmarks we used in deciding upon a new location was whether or not it would injure any existing private institution.
The use of this benchmark is illustrated by two incidents. Once upon a time Evansville College had fallen upon bad times: its enrollment was dropping; its financial situation was desperate. Finally its president and board of trustees came to us to say they had no choice other than to ask us to take over the college and to establish on its campus a branch of Indiana University. This of course was attractive to the university because Evansville would normally have been a place that we would feel some obligation to serve and that could be served quite expeditiously from the Bloomington campus of the university. However, following our custom, Ward Biddle and I made a journey to Evansville and spent a few days carefully surveying the situation with the faculty members, the officers of the college, and the downtown power structure. We came to the conclusion that it would be entirely feasible for us to establish a branch on the existing Evansville College campus, but we also believed that it was feasible for Evansville College to continue. Our study indicated that, with a little greater support from the business and civic leaders of the community and a more sympathetic concern for the life of the institution by the Methodist Church, with which it was affiliated, the college could be made viable. One of the curricular needs that the institution had was for master’s-level courses in certain fields such as education and nursing that we could offer. We suggested to the Evansville College officials that they regroup and move ahead rather than capitulate. We agreed to assist them by sending some top-level faculty to Evansville for a few semesters to teach courses the college could not afford to offer. In addition, we spoke to some of the leaders of the local business community such as Charlie Enlow, telling them we thought it was shameful that the community was not supporting the college better and that, if they would get behind the college, it could be made successful. We also sought out some of the leaders of the Methodist Church, including the bishop, repeating our appraisal to them. As a result of these initiatives, Evansville College did regroup and, with increased support from downtown businesses and the church, was able to begin an upward climb that has resulted in university status and its present highly successful and valuable work.
One of the unhappy events in this story, however, is that Indiana State University at Terre Haute, breaking all agreements that the four institutions had had concerning branching and with total disregard for Evansville University’s welfare, did a few years ago establish a branch campus between Evansville and Mt. Vernon, and with vigorous promotion considerably damaged Evansville University’s future growth possibilities. We are proud of the fact that we put the welfare of that institution first rather than the aggrandizement of Indiana University.
Another illustration of our policy of coordination and cooperation with the private colleges comes from our relationship with Earlham College. The community of Richmond was asking Earlham College for certain courses of a professional and vocational nature and also asking that they be given in the evening. Earlham was not interested in undertaking such offerings; however, its plant was largely unused from midafternoon through the evening hours. President William C. Dennis of Earlham invited me to meet with him one day. In the course of this meeting he suggested that we work out an arrangement for a joint Indiana University-Earlham College center to serve the vocational, professional, and evening-class needs of that community. Our agreement roughly called for Earlham to supply the plant and for Indiana University to meet the cost of the instruction, the faculty, and the administration of the program. Both Boards concurred, and for many years the plan functioned very successfully until Earlham College decided to discontinue the arrangement. Later, the present Indiana University East campus was established with Earlham College’s blessing. But at the time of the agreement, it was an unparalleled arrangement between a state university and a private liberal arts college to offer an evening program and is an excellent example of what can be accomplished to the mutual advantage of each when two institutions join in a program better to serve the youth of an area.
When we were invited, indeed urged, to come into South Bend we first sought to ascertain the attitude of Father J. Hugh O’Donnell, the president, and the other officials of the University of Notre Dame. They cordially welcomed our entry with our type of program, which would help to relieve Notre Dame of the pressure of providing the kind of courses that we were proposing to offer to the youth of that community. Notre Dame wished to maintain its integrity as a national university drawing its student body from everywhere rather than having a disproportionate number from the local community.
Our system as it finally evolved, with some additional branches that Purdue University established after a time, brings the four years of college training within twenty-five miles of 95 percent of all high school graduates in the state. In making this statement, of course, I am including the offerings of the private colleges as well as of the public institutions. So far as I know this is an unparalleled distribution of collegiate opportunities in any place in the United States, and I do not exclude California with its much-publicized state college and junior college systems.
I am not unaware of criticisms that have been leveled against a satellite system such as ours. As the regional campuses mature and develop their own individuality, often a desire for autonomous decision-making also grows: to set their own standards, to obtain the amenities of the core campus, to have their own athletic teams, and so on. Although understandable, aspirations of this nature, if fully realized, would lead to a multiplicity of state schools all seeking ever-increasing appropriations from the state legislature and, since there is a limit to state spending for higher education, ending in a struggle to stay alive. The present administration of Indiana University has maintained a viable balance, it seems to me, between the aspirations of all its campuses and the realities of state funding.
As we began to develop our branches throughout the state, one of the difficulties we encountered was Purdue’s practice of insisting that any branch operations had to be supported from the general legislative appropriations of Indiana University. This meant that any money spent on the branches, or extension centers, had to be squeezed out of an already inadequate Bloomington-Indianapolis budget. But Purdue was adamant, stating its belief that all the centers should be approximately self-supporting from student fees. Purdue continued to press the point until circumstances made it expedient for it to begin establishing branches, and at that time its officials retreated from their previous position. I can only assume that their earlier policy, when they had no branches, was based upon the probability that funding of Indiana University’s branches would break the parity of appropriations between the two institutions. Another reason for their eventual willingness to allow us to seek money for our extension centers probably was that, by the time of Purdue’s branching, parity was already broken and appropriations for the centers were no longer at issue.
As Purdue began to enter the field we attempted to eliminate competitive factors as much as possible by a number of devices. One was the host-guest relationship. In an area where we were already established and had a sizable offering, we would become host, providing Purdue the facilities necessary for it to offer some courses.
We did so in Jeffersonville, South Bend, Kokomo, and Indianapolis. Purdue in turn played host to us in its Michigan City branch. In recent years we have evolved a joint administrative structure when both institutions are established in a community as in Fort Wayne and in Indianapolis. In Fort Wayne, Purdue handles fiscal matters for the whole campus and each institution carries on its own academic program. The reverse is true in Indianapolis: we handle all fiscal and general administrative matters for both Indiana and Purdue programs.
I think that, all in all, the system as it evolved offers to the state of Indiana the best possible program for the benefit of the students and all citizens of the state. It not only gives them a widespread coverage of academic opportunities, but does so with the least possible duplication and with the greatest efficiency involving the least cost per credit hour delivered.
1. Robert E. Cavanaugh, Indiana University Extension: Its Origin, Progress, Pitfalls, and Personalities (Indiana University Extension, 1961).