Great Things are Happening for IUP Punxsutawney

Posted on 1/27/2017 11:59:51 AM

IUP Punxsutawney is providing greater emphasis on its original mission of a regional campus primarily serving its local community. The following article is from the January 26, 2017 edition of the Punxsutawney Spirit, by Matthew Triponey.

The Punxsutawney campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania is at the beginning of a process of reinvention as it attempts  to return to its original vision—a regional campus primarily serving its host community.

Rich Muth, dean of the IUP–Punxsy campus, said the school’s focus for the last decade or so has slowly drifted toward out-of-town students who would come to the area for one year before transferring to the main campus, while students from the local community filled out the margins.

J. Thomas Frantz, president of the Punxsutawney Area College Trust, said the original intent was that IUP–Punxsy would be a branch campus that directed its focus toward students from the Jefferson County area. The campus is now adjusting its program to once again cater to local needs, for both traditional and nontraditional students, whether fresh high school graduates, or adults hoping to further their education. 

Toward this end, IUP–Punxsy is in the process of establishing two-year associate degree programs that can be completed entirely on campus. Muth said the school is mainly looking at an associate degree in general studies, but with a variety of available concentrations. IUP–Punxsy intends to work with students to make the selection as customizable as possible, so they can specialize the general studies degree to match their interests, or, if they intend to move on to the main campus for a four-year degree, take the necessary prerequisites to transition directly into the junior- and senior-level courses in their chose major. The university offers 130 different majors, Muth said, so in many cases, the courses already exist; the question is simply how to incorporate them into a two-year program on the IUP-Punxsy campus. The current plan is to mix face-to-face classes in Punxsutawney with online courses offered by the university.

Frantz added that associate degrees obtained in Punxsutawney will not be terminal—should the student later decide to pursue a higher-level degree, whether on the main campus or at another school entirely, that foundation will already be in place. New students won’t be forced to acquire the degree in sequence either; someone who wants to get a degree but can’t take a full course load will be able to move forward at his or her own pace.

Muth said IUP–Punxsy isn’t limiting its considerations to associate degrees either; it’s also looking at a variety of certification programs. He said the campus would also like to develop degree completion programs making it possible to get a bachelor’s degree on campus, using some of the university’s online offerings. He said IUP–Punxsy may not be too far away from adding graduate degrees as well.

At the moment, the campus is directing most of its attention toward developing programs and opportunities best suited for the Jefferson County area. Muth said IUP–Punxsy has been using data from the State System of Higher Education’s gap analysis, which shows the divide between specified area’s employment needs and its educational opportunities, to build upon its curriculum. For example, the analysis showed a large gap in the health field in Jefferson County.

Frantz said the overall goal is to create quality courses that can result in good jobs with quality pay that help the Jefferson County area grow. ‘We want you to get a good education, we want you to stay in Punxsutawney and we want you to help those in Punxsutawney,’ he said.

IUP–Punxsy’s future development plans are not restricted to associate degree programs. It’s also working on providing more opportunities for students in its culinary arts program. At the moment, IUP–Punxsy culinary arts is a certificate program. Graduates either go directly into the workforce or transfer to the main campus to pursue a degree. Muth said the school wants to do more for the students in Punxsutawney and is considering a number of options—providing more in the way of hospitality management education, connecting the program to the upcoming associate degree in general studies, and converting it to college credits so students can get a head start on degrees to be pursued in the local area or on the main campus.

The campus is also taking steps to make its dual enrollment program more accessible. IUP–Punxsy currently allows high school juniors and seniors who meet the qualifications to take college courses at a 75 percent discount. The stated used to have a tuition program that helped cover those costs, Frantz said, but it was dropped. Since then, IUP–Punxsy has seen a reduction in interest from high school students. To rectify the situation, the Punxsutawney Area College Trust has put a block of $10,000 in a fund to cover the cost of participation in the program, up to and including the necessary textbooks, for any qualifying student of the Punxsutawney Area High School.

Muth said the campus is also working with the local school district to improve its scheduling so high school students cane more easily participate.

None of these changes will affect the way Jefferson County students are admitted to IUP. Those who apply to the main campus will be considered in the same way were before. Rather, Muth said, IUP–Punxsy’s new focus is designed to make it easier for local residents who want to take classes on its campus to do so. If they meet the university academic standards, prospective students can apply for whichever campus seems best for their needs.

Muth said there are advantages to starting one’s education on a regional campus. Students receive more direct attention, nearly all of the necessary educational resources can be found in one building, and they can save on housing costs if they already live in the area.

While associate degree programs will begin to take effect in time for the upcoming fall semester, Muth emphasized that there’s no end date on this process—IUP–Punxsy will continue to develop its courses, programs, and options for further education, with a focus on the residents of Jefferson County and their needs. He said many of the plans remain rough drafts and will be built upon year after year.

‘All of these are going to be really good things for the region, things that have not been here before.’ Muth said.

Frantz added that the campus isn’t pursuing a new mission, but returning to its original one, alongside a variety of improvements. He said IUP–Punxsy is a regional campus and was meant to belong to and provide for its community; the administration hopes that it will soon serve that purpose once more.”