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Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

McRobbie reflects on cost, quality and relevance of IU education in annual State of University address

Oct. 9, 2012

EDITORS: Select, broadcast-quality video highlights from the State of the University address will be available for media to view and download online by 3:30 p.m. EST. Additionally, an archived broadcast of the address will be viewable at

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie detailed the major progress IU has made over the past year in advancing its teaching, research and public service missions, while also unveiling a significant new initiative aimed at lowering the cost and reducing the time it takes to earn an IU degree, at his annual State of the University address today.

State of the University 2012

IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivers his 2012 State of the University address at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Print-Quality Photo

Speaking before an audience of IU faculty and staff gathered on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, McRobbie acknowledged the "sustained and powerful criticisms" being leveled at higher education from an "increasingly diverse array of critics" regarding quality, costs and relevance that "strike at the very heart of our enterprise."

"These are not partisan attacks," McRobbie said. "They are fundamental questions about who we are, what we do and what we are worth to society."

In an approximately 50-minute address, McRobbie outlined specific actions the university has taken as a result of aggressively addressing these questions and laid the foundation for IU's future efforts in the areas of affordability, improved teaching and research, student experience, technical leadership and more.

On the subject of rising college costs, McRobbie said, "I want to make it clear that we have heard and share the public's concerns over college affordability. We understand that cost matters to students and their families."

McRobbie said IU is committed to keeping its average cost of attendance -- already the lowest in the Big Ten -- below levels paid at similar high-quality institutions. For example, more than half of IU Bloomington students carry no student loan debt, McRobbie added, in large part because the university has doubled institutional aid to students over the past five years.

McRobbie also cited an initiative announced in October 2011 to lower summer session tuition for Indiana resident undergraduate students by 25 percent as an example of IU's commitment to affordability and on-time degree completion. The summer tuition discount program, which went into effect this year, resulted in an increase in the number of students taking courses at IU campuses over the summer and a combined savings to those students of $11.8 million.

Despite recent achievements regarding increased student aid and attempts to limit tuition increases, IU continues to be mindful of public concerns over college affordability, McRobbie said. To further address these concerns, McRobbie announced a powerful new tool to lower the cost of attending IU, while also providing additional incentive for students to graduate in four years.

The new on-time completion award program, which takes effect in the fall of 2013, will effectively freeze tuition for students after their sophomore year if they are on track to graduate in four years.

Under the program, qualified students will receive an on-time completion award equal to any increase in tuition and fees that they would otherwise incur during their final two years at IU. Should a qualifying student not graduate in four years, he or she would then pay the current tuition and fee rates for any time at IU beyond their fourth year.

"This award makes two things clear: That we are serious about holding down the cost of an IU degree, and that we are equally serious about providing tools and incentives to help our students stay on course for on-time degree completion," McRobbie said.

McRobbie also pledged to strengthen the university's commitment to student advising and challenged all IU campuses to become more proactive in providing support to at-risk students before they fall too far behind in their academic careers. Likewise, McRobbie asked campus leadership to take a "fresh look" at career counseling with the goal of providing more specialized career-related services to students.

McRobbie also used the speech to announce a major new technology initiative aimed at restoring IU to the forefront of high-speed research computing. He unveiled the university's plan to purchase the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the United States, built by Cray Inc. IU acquired "Big Red," the first university-owned supercomputer in the country, in 2006.

Dubbed Big Red II, the new supercomputer will "accelerate discovery and allow new research by hundreds of IU scientists and scholars" and "play a major role in the recruitment of new faculty" in areas such as medicine and informatics where the university expects to see considerable growth in the next few years.

Finally, McRobbie pointed to several other notable achievements that have allowed the university to maintain its academic quality and increase its level of engagement in Indiana, nationally and internationally. They include:

  • A major strategic investment in online education, to be known as IU Online, to accelerate the development and delivery of quality online courses and programs at IU's campuses statewide and meet the state's workforce development needs.
  • A new Office of Student Financial Literacy designed to help students understand the implications of student debt and how to manage and control it.
  • A degree-granting School of Philanthropy on the IUPUI campus, the first school of its kind in the nation.
  • A new School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington, which will build on IU's rich base of intellectual resources in global studies and its strategic partnerships around the world. Eventually, the school will be housed in a striking new building that will be paid for entirely with university resources. In fact, half of the expected $53 million cost for the facility will come from IU's share of revenues generated by the Big Ten Network, by far the largest use of athletic-related funds for academic purposes ever at the university.
  • Two new schools of public health in Bloomington and Indianapolis, established, in part, by a desire to address serious health care challenges facing Indiana and the nation.
  • Two new facilities in Indianapolis that will comprise one of the largest collections of neuroscience researchers and clinicians in the nation and have a major impact on the lives of those suffering from neurological diseases and disorders.

The full text of McRobbie's address is available online. To view an archived broadcast of the State of the University, go to