Indiana University, Purdue to split IUPUI into 2 separate schools

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After more than 50 years, Indiana University and Purdue University will split IUPUI – their joint venture in Indianapolis − into two separate academic institutions.

The announcement, which both institutions are calling "a bold new vision for higher education in Indianapolis," was made simultaneously Friday morning at meetings of the IU and Purdue boards of trustees. It's the first step in what is expected to be a two-year process. Details of the split, including opportunities for continued partnership, will be worked through in time for the realignment to be completed by the fall 2024 semester.

"This is an historic moment for Indianapolis, for IU, and for our entire state," IU President Pam Whitten said in a news release Friday. "We are building on IUPUI's more than 50 years of accomplishment to propel us into becoming one of the preeminent urban research universities in this country."

IUPUI has been administered primarily through IU and secondarily through Purdue, but it offered undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees from both universities. Located in downtown Indianapolis along the White River, it is Indiana's primary urban research and academic health sciences institution.

IU will take control of the majority of the existing campus but Purdue will maintain a presence.

Each institution said the realignment and subsequent rebranding will allow for new growth opportunities. IU's presence will be known as IU Indianapolis. Purdue has not yet chosen a name for its Indianapolis operation.

"What we are announcing today responds to calls we have heard from Indianapolis and across the state for a bigger and more visible Purdue in Indianapolis," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels in a news release. "Our state and its largest city require a world-class, high-technology research presence of the quality Purdue represents."

How the split will work

Indiana University will take over operation of what is now the School of Science at IUPUI, except for its Department of Computer Science, which will become part of Purdue. IU will expand its Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering with new computer science programs in Indianapolis.

IU also expects to enhance integration of its science programs with its School of Medicine and other allied health science schools, expanding the number of students who will be prepared for health science-based careers. IU will continue to offer business, law, nursing, social work and a wide range of other academic disciplines.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Whitten said that of the 27,000 currently enrolled IUPUI students, as many as 25,000 of them would be earning IU degrees under the new configuration.

IU will provide certain administrative services for Purdue and maintain the intercollegiate athletic program.

Purdue will assume responsibility for engineering, computer science and technology as a fully integrated expansion of Purdue West Lafayette. The new structure will allow Purdue to grow engineering, technology and computer science enrollments in Indianapolis and, according to a news release, "create exciting opportunities for current West Lafayette students to 'study away' in Indianapolis while pursuing internship or cooperative work opportunities." In addition to its new urban campus, Purdue intends to open a branch of its Purdue Applied Research Institute on or near the current IUPUI.

Purdue will continue operating out of several buildings on the IUPUI campus. It hopes to eventually build a new dorm. At Friday's press conference, Daniels said the vision is that students from Purdue's flagship West Lafayette campus would have opportunities to study at the Indianapolis campus for a year or two. It will not be treated as a regional campus, he said, but rather as an extension of West Lafayette.

Purdue is anticipating growing its Indianapolis enrollment by more than 1,000 students.

Mung Chiang is Purdue's incoming president, succeeding Daniels after his retirement at the end of the year. Chiang said the Indianapolis campus will create a "hard-tech" corridor from West Lafayette to Indianapolis that will be an economic driver to the state and the region.

"It's very exciting," he said. "It will create economic growth and jobs for Indiana and the entire Midwest."

IUPUI is one of nine IU campuses around the state and home to the IU School of Medicine, the nation’s largest medical school, and the IU School of Dentistry. It also houses the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, one of two IU law schools. It's one of five campuses in the Purdue University system.

An entrance to the IUPUI campus welcomes students, faculty and other visitors just off North West Street in Indianapolis on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.
An entrance to the IUPUI campus welcomes students, faculty and other visitors just off North West Street in Indianapolis on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

According to the university, IUPUI serves more in-state students than any other campus in Indiana and more than a third of its students are people of color. In 2021, it served more than 19,000 undergraduate students and nearly 8,500 graduate and professional students.

It employs nearly 4,000 full-time staff members. Some faculty members expressed concern on social media Friday for what the sea change would mean for their jobs. Andrew Klein, interim chancellor of IUPUI, said he doesn't expect faculty to be greatly impacted. He said IU plans to continue offering everything that's available on campus now.

Still, he said, many details will be worked out over the next two years. Faculty, staff, students and external stakeholders will be involved in a variety of task forces to flesh out those details and create a smooth transition, he said.

It’s unclear how the split will impact IUPUC, the Columbus, Indiana, campus administered as a regional affiliate of IUPUI.

Responding to employer needs

Indiana's two flagship public higher education institutions said the split of operations in Indianapolis comes in response to a request from the business community to build capacity in training workers for some of the state's most in-demand fields, such as health sciences, IT and advanced engineering.

Purdue's board chair, Mike Berghoff, said the move will not only increase brand recognition but also incentivize each institution to increase its investment in Indianapolis.

Already, the institutions announced one new addition to the campus. Whitten said they'll take their respective expertise − IU in health sciences and Purdue in engineering − to create a new Biosciences Engineering Institute.

"We view this as an opportunity, frankly, to make a statement to the whole country," Whitten said, "that Indiana is the place to come to get training, to start a company or to hire people in the fields of bio-health engineering."

It's unclear, though, if the new ventures will be enough to assuage the concerns of Indiana's business communities. Indiana's inability to entice its high school graduates and under-educated adults into higher education or retain those who do graduate from college here has been hamstringing economic growth. The state's politics, including its recently passed ban on nearly all abortions, have added fuel to the fire.

Earlier this year, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly said that low educational attainment would cause it to look outside the state for business growth. Then, last week, it was among several large Indiana employers that condemned the state's newly enacted abortion restrictions and again said it would necessitate that the company invest outside the state.

Leaders of both IU and Purdue said Friday, though, that they weren't worried the state's politics would hurt their plans to grow in Indianapolis.

"The academic offerings, I think that's what students are looking for first and foremost, and I think that we're gonna improve on both ends here," Daniels said. "I see a steady escalation, really, of both the numbers and the quality of students who will take advantage of this opportunity."

Indy is not the first campus divided

Modern-day IUPUI was created in 1969, when IU and Purdue merged their regional Indianapolis campuses at the behest of then-Mayor Richard Lugar, who called for “a great state university in Indianapolis.”

The campuses had operated independently for decades prior to that.

Klein has been the interim IUPUI chancellor since Nasser Paydar retired from the permanent post in March. Paydar was recently confirmed as assistant secretary for postsecondary education for the U.S. Department of Education.

The two institutions previously split another joint campus in Fort Wayne. The former Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne was split into Indiana University Fort Wayne and Purdue University Fort Wayne, with IU taking control of the health sciences programs and Purdue managing the rest of the academic programs.

That controversial split followed several years of legislative discussions and studies about the campus' shared governance structure. In 2015, the Legislative Services Agency recommended that IU and Purdue split control of IPFW, spurring the new governance model.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana University, Purdue to split IUPUI into 2 separate schools