Dear Friend of Indiana University,

The 2014-15 academic year has just started, but already things are in full swing across our seven campuses, all of which started classes on Aug. 25 under our new common academic calendar. Our enrollment of 114,382 students is on par with recent record high levels despite the first signs of a demographic change that will result in a shrinking pool of traditional college-age individuals over the next several years.

Our continued strong enrollment—which includes record student populations on our IndianapolisIU East and IU Kokomo campuses—along with the record 1.3 million credit hours that IU students are taking this fall as well as the extremely impressive profile of our incoming freshman class, are a testament to IU’s reputation as an affordable world-class educational institution.

For example, the number of incoming freshman at IUPUI with SAT scores of 1,100 or higher increased 12 percent from last year, while at IU Bloomington, the average high school GPA for incoming freshmen is 3.73, and one-third of entering students finished in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. Similarly, the number of Indiana 21st Century Scholars grew dramatically across most of our regional campuses—led by a 36 percent rise at IU South Bend.

Bolstering our work on affordability and student debt

Not only are our efforts to attract promising students paying dividends, but the university is also working hard to ensure IU remains an affordable educational option. We have taken a number of important steps in recent years to address the cost of an IU degree as well as promote on-time graduation, including:

  • Holding tuition increases for the current 2-year budget cycle to their lowest levels in nearly 40 years.
  • Freezing tuition and fees for thousands of students on track to graduate in four years after their sophomore year.
  • Extending our summer tuition discount program for a third year this summer at our IUPUI and regional campuses where it has been very successful.
  • Increasing the hours cap for flat-fee tuition at IU Bloomington from 17 to 18 credits, beginning this fall.

These efforts, along with our path-breaking student financial literacy initiative that began in 2012, are already making a noticeable difference. These financial literacy initiatives included the creation of an Office of Financial Literacy; a financial literacy website; system-wide business practice changes to create more transparency about the cost of student debt; peer-to-peer counseling on issues related to debt and money management and the issuance of an annual debt letter telling students how much they have borrowed and what their expected loan payments will be.

And we are already seeing impressive results from these programs. Students at Indiana University are taking on less debt overall. Last year, the number of IU undergraduates who took out federal loans decreased by 11 percent from 2012-2013, and the money they borrowed fell by $31 million. This is a far greater reduction than the national average of 2 percent.

Our students are finding ways to hold down overall expenses and declining to accept loans they don't need to pay college and living costs—and there is every indication that these results are due, at least in large part, to the programs we have put in place.

We are also gratified that our financial literacy initiatives have gained national attention and national praise—and I think there is no question that Indiana University is a national leader in this arena.

Indiana’s higher education commissioner Teresa Lubbers noted this successful program in testimony on student debt before Congress earlier this summer, and our work has been highlighted by national and state media.  In particular, the large drop in student loan borrowing at IU was the focus of a very positive piece in July by Bloomberg Businessweek, which is appended at the end of this update.

Striving to be a leader in sexual assault prevention and survivor support

In simplest terms, nothing is more important to all of us at the university than the safety and well being of our students. We are fortunate to have dedicated public safety and student support professionals on all our campuses, and I am extremely proud of the work they do.

Despite our best efforts, however, and those at universities across the country, the incidence of sexual assault on college campus remains a concern. Indeed, over the past year the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has become part of the national dialogue with the Obama Administration and members of Congress calling for universities to do more to protect and support students.

IU intends to be a leader on this issue—both in creating a culture that says sexual violence will not be tolerated on our campuses and in developing comprehensive support and adjudication systems for those affected by sexual violence.

We already have many resources and programs in place to educate our students on the topic of sexual violence and to support survivors of sexual violence, and we address the issue head-on with our students even before they arrive on campus as freshmen.

We also are modifying our sexual misconduct policy this fall to provide greater clarity on our processes and procedures for handling sexual violence and sexual harassment claims. In addition, a new university website devoted to sexual violence resources was launched last month, and approximately 6,000 posters that define consent, offer resources for sexual violence survivors and provide reminders urging students to intervene if they see someone in need will be placed around the IU Bloomington campus early this semester.

Our work in this area is far from complete, however. Toward that end, the Board of Trustees approved a Student Welfare Initiative, presented by senior administrators at the Board meeting in August, which spells out a number of steps the university will take to tackle this issue during the upcoming academic year.

This initiative will be a broad-based effort led by a coalition of university employees working closely with students across all our campuses to better educate students on issues pertaining to sexual violence and increase awareness of public safety and survivor support resources available to students. Additionally, we will engage a number of our faculty whose research focuses on sexual assault prevention and survivor support to inform our work with the latest knowledge on these topics.

I think it’s fair to say that no student issue gets more attention than those that deal with safety. And as it relates specifically to sexual violence, we are committed to working with all partners who have expertise and resources to help us tackle this challenging problem and make our campuses safer for all our students.

Changes, improvements mark the start of a new year across all IU campuses

The complete list of changes across our campuses as we begin the 2014-15 academic year is too long to share in this space, but I would like to offer just a few highlights from across our campuses as we head into the new year. 

  • The Media School at IU Bloomington officially came into existence on July 1. The school combines the former School of Journalism and the departments of Telecommunications, and of Communication and Culture, and the Film and Media Studies program. The school will help IU maintain its leadership as a premiere destination for students pursuing a wide range of communications-related disciplines in this age of converging digital media. The search for a dean for the school is underway, as are plans for the new curriculum, which will debut next fall, and state-of-the-art facilities in Franklin Hall on which major renovation will soon commence to be ready by fall of 2016.
  • Another major facility, the Hodge Hall expansion to the Kelley School of Business, was completed over the summer. The impressive limestone expansion is a beautiful addition to the Bloomington campus and its opening allows us to begin phase two of the project, which is the renovation of the adjacent original Kelley undergraduate facilities.
  • IUPUI continues to make great strides both in attracting a diverse student population and in increasing its 4 and 6-year graduation rates. Domestic minority student enrollment this fall is expected to exceed 22 percent, the highest level in the campus’ history.  The average number of credits taken by undergraduates is expected to increase at every grade level, an indicator that more students are on a pathway to on-time graduation.
  • IU Northwest will soon have a new $45 million Arts and Sciences building. This facility, which includes shared space with Ivy Tech Community College, will be a signature addition to the IU Northwest campus, spanning most of a city block along Broadway. It is expected to open in 2017.  The IU School of Medicine—Northwest, located on the IU Northwest campus, also is proud to welcome 27 first-year medical students, the largest class to date.
  • IU Kokomo welcomes a talented group of 19 new faculty members due to retirements and the need to staff new degree programs. The campus also continues to see increased enrollment in its new undergraduate programs: Health Sciences, Hospitality and Tourism and the masters degree in nursing.  These programs are responding to the region’s needs in health care and business.
  • IU East will begin work on a new Student Events Center following the Board of Trustees’ approval of this project last month. This facility will promote student success through a comprehensive offering of programming in health and wellness, physical education, athletics, student activities and special events. IU East has been raising funds for the project through its public campaign, “Bold Aspirations: The Campaign for the Student Events Center,” which began in October 2012.
  • IU Southeast welcomed Ray Wallace as its new chancellor in July and he has hit the ground running to build on the outstanding work done by Associate Vice President Barb Bichelmeyer, who served as interim chancellor for the previous academic year. The campus also enjoyed record-breaking summer enrollment this year, with both headcount and credit hours up substantially from the previous year.
  • At IU South Bend, the Louise E. Addicott and Yatish J. Joshi Performance Hall will be open for use this year. The remodeled 224-seat venue was made possible by a generous gift from the Georgina Joshi Foundation and will be the home for chamber music, small ensembles and solo performances. It also includes a state-of-the-art sound system for performances and recording. A dedication concert is scheduled for Sept. 26.

IU welcomes two new trustees, new board chair

In July, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made two new appointments to the IU Board of Trustees, appointing Andrew F. Mohr, president and CEO of Andy Mohr Automotive Group, based in Plainfield, Ind., and Michael J. Mirro of Fort Wayne, chief academic research officer for Parkview Health System, in northeast Indiana. Both Andy and Mike have been strong supporters of IU and I am pleased they have agreed to lend their expertise to our board. In fact Andy gave a major gift to endow the Andy Mohr Softball Field, which opened last year.

Also, Randall Tobias, who joined the board last year, was elected to a one-year term as chair of the board by his fellow trustees. Randy brings a wealth of institutional knowledge about IU and leadership experience in both the public and private sector to his role—including a 13-year tenure as a trustee at Duke University, three of them as chair—and I am delighted to have his counsel. MaryEllen Bishop, who served as chair following the resignation of Tom Reilly as chair in July, was re-elected as vice chair.

I would like to pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of former Trustees Reilly and Bill Cast who retired from the Board in July after nine years of service to Indiana University. They made many lasting contributions to the university but I am particularly grateful to them for the emphasis they placed on the affordability of an IU education and grappling with IU’s daunting deferred maintenance problems, which we have now been able to systematically address. IU is the great institution it is due in significant part to the often-unheralded efforts of our Trustees over nearly two centuries.

As I enter my eighth year as president, I remain as bullish as ever on the future of Indiana University. Over the past seven years, we have consistently proven that IU is up to the task of preparing our students to succeed in a highly competitive global society, while also remaining true to our mission as a leading research institution. I am proud of the outstanding work done by our faculty and staff across the state as we continually strive to meet the challenges of today while building for the future.

None of this would be possible without the support of our friends and alumni around the world. As always, thanks for helping us keep Indiana University strong.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie

Note: This story from Bloomberg appears below as a courtesy of the news outlet.

How Students at a U.S. University Borrowed $31 Million Less

By Janet Lorin
July 5, 2014

A simple letter from Indiana University led its students to reduce borrowing by far more than the national average.

Amid the furor over the $1.2 trillion in U.S. student debt, the seven-campus system decided to tell students annually before they take out loans for the next year what their monthly payment would be after graduation.

Federal undergraduate Stafford loan disbursements at the public university dropped 11 percent, or $31 million, in the nine months that ended March 31 from a year earlier, according to Education Department data. That’s more than fivefold the 2 percent decline in outlays to four-year public schools nationally.

“We are having more contact with the student where they can say ‘I don’t want this,’ or ‘I want less,’” said Jim Kennedy, associate vice president and director of financial aid at the Indiana system. “If they know at all times their debt, and the repayment, it helps with a lot of planning.”

Studies have shown that many students, some as young at 17 when they first borrow, fail to understand loan terms and find themselves in financial straits when they are expected to begin repaying years later. A Federal Reserve Bank of New York report last month found that fewer than half of survey respondents with student debt had high “loan literacy.” Federal law requires colleges to provide counseling to borrowers only at the beginning and end of their studies.

Natalie Cahill, 22, who is about to start her final year in nursing at Indiana’s flagship Bloomington campus, said that after receiving her debt letter she decided to search for more scholarships.

Loan ‘Perspective’

“When you take out loans for the year, you just see a smaller number than the grand total,” Cahill said. “Seeing the letter definitely put things into perspective.”

Cahill, who said she has taken out about $22,600, plans to borrow less for this year and will use earnings from a summer hospital job to help cover costs.

The level of outstanding education debt in the U.S. surpassed that of credit card debt four years ago. The most recent federal default rate, for the first three years that students are required to make payments, is 14.7 percent. That compares with 5.4 percent a decade ago, when the rate was measured over two years.

Rising default rates at Indiana also sounded the alarms among the university’s leaders, Kennedy said. The most recent rate for Bloomington for students required to start repayment in 2010 was 6.4 percent, up from 3.4 percent a year earlier, according to Education Department data.

Debt Literacy

The letters, which Indiana began sending in the 2012-2013 academic year, are part of an effort to expand students’ financial-aid literacy. The schools, which have a combined 95,000 undergraduates, also started a personal finance course, peer-to-peer advising and added more information to the website. The letters are sent out mostly by e-mail before students take loans for the next year, Kennedy said.

“I’m not surprised it drives down the borrowing once you know the consequences,” Kennedy said.

Undergraduate borrowing at Indiana through the Stafford program, the most popular federal loan product, dropped to $249 million in the nine months through March from $279.6 million a year earlier, according to Education Department data.

‘Eye Opening’

Seeing the cumulative amount of debt he’s acquired made Rigo Hernandez hesitant to borrow more. The 21-year-old chemistry major at Bloomington said he’s cutting expenses, avoiding purchases such as a new mobile phone, and contributing more to tuition from his summer job. He’s taken out $5,535, and would pay $2,091 more in interest under a 10-year term, according to his letter.

“When I saw the grand total, it was eye opening as to how much I borrowed and eventually I’ll have to pay that,” Hernandez said.

By the 2012-2013 school year, all seven campuses also began requiring that returning students confirm they want to take out loans on their school’s website, rather than just passively by filling out an online federal form for student financial aid. Indiana’s undergraduate Stafford loan disbursements dropped 8 percent that year.

“We added more stopping points in the process,” Kennedy said. Students “have to step back and really understand how much loan debt they’re taking on.”

Enrollment Constant

Indiana’s loan volume dropped even as enrollment and financial-aid needs remained constant, Kennedy said. Tuition and fees in Bloomington increased 1.8 percent for in-state students and 2.8 percent for those from outside Indiana.

Declining enrollment is partly behind the 2 percent drop in borrowing nationally, according to Ben Miller, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation in Washington who analyzed Education Department loan data.

Undergraduate Stafford borrowing at Purdue University, a separate public school in Indiana, declined by 12 percent in the first three quarters on its main campus in West Lafayette, according to Education Department data. The campus also added financial-literacy programs, including small-group meetings and online scavenger hunts about loans where students can win $50 gift cards to