TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — “If you think you know Indiana State, take a closer look.”

That’s the message from Indiana State University President Deborah Curtis when discussing programs and opportunities at the Terre Haute college.

With enrollment numbers down nearly 12% this spring semester when compared to spring of 2021, Curtis said the approach to bringing students to campus is multi-faceted.

“You can’t just do one thing,” Curtis explained. “You can’t just move one lever, otherwise everybody would’ve done that before. I think one thing I want people to know is institutions like Indiana State, all the way through doctoral programs have taken the largest hit throughout the pandemic in enrollment. You can see that in any of the data nationally all over the country. State flagships tend to open their wait lists and who does that impact? It impacts the comprehensives, but that isn’t the end of it because, you know, as people coming back out, we also need to be messaging about the value of earning a degree.”

Curtis said another element of increasing enrollment is emphasizing the ways that ISU excels when it comes to social mobility.

According to ISU’s 2021 Annual Report, the Fall 2021 freshman class was 46% Pell Grant-eligible and 51% first-generation college students.

The report also shared that 64% of graduates stay in Indiana, which Curtis said helps to boost the Hoosier economy.

“Indiana State is committed to filling the middle class,” Curtis said. “That’s our goal right now in this development of enrollment to say, look for those folks.”

ISU is also looking for prospective students who begin their career at Ivy Tech utilizing the Pathway to Blue program.

“If a student chooses Ivy Tech mainly for affordability decisions, it’s a no brainer that they should complete their degree at Indiana State,” Curtis said. “That combined with an Ivy Tech associate’s degree is the most affordable path to a baccalaureate degree in the state.”

Affordability is also a conversation happening between leaders at ISU as the school’s budget has been a big topic of conversation this year. Curtis said that the effort on campus has been to avoid any severe course of action.

“Indiana State has lived within our means,” Curtis said. “I can tell you that it’s not fun to have to adjust budgets in this environment, but I will tell you, Indiana State has taken far less draconian measures than many institutions like ours to be able to maintain that, and that’s my commitment.”

Curtis said ISU is also committed to its roots as a teacher’s college and pointed to the preferred partnership program with local school districts that aims to combat the ongoing teacher shortage.

“Any of us who have been at this work for a long time can remember the era of future teachers groups and things of that type,” Curtis said. “Well, we’re gonna put a new twist on that by engaging with school districts to say, ‘let’s get your teachers involved in identifying those young people, that this would be a great career for them’.”

Regardless of what career an ISU student is seeking, the entire student body can take note of the renovations happening on campus. For example, Hulman Center is awaiting its final upgrades.

“Probably late July we’ll receive delivery of the new scoreboard video boards,” Curtis shared. “There’ll be a ribbon around the arena area as well, so it’s going to be very exciting to see those final touches.”

Dreiser Hall is another construction project bringing new life to a historic campus spot.

“Of course, it’s a very substantial 1950s-built brick building, but that’s the last thing you’ll see that looks familiar when you go into that totally re-thought space,” Curtis said. “(It’s a) state of the art teaching and learning space, home of our communications department, but many other things, you know, student media will be in there. and with facilities built with the exact right type of equipment for them to be able to be ready for their careers.”

The campus improvements allow visitors and prospective students to take that closer look, but Curtis also shared that for her, success is about more than just getting students on the Terre Haute campus.

“Yes, it’s important how many people come in through the door but it is equally, if not more important, how many actually complete their degrees,” Curtis said. “It sounds like a misrepresentation of one mission, but it’s two things in the one mission – educate and graduate students and the graduate is as important as the educate piece. It’s not ‘y’all come in and good luck’. It’s really saying come to Indiana State and stay on the path to complete that degree and open those doors.”