Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast student Joseph Gross starts some of his days at 2 a.m., when he begins his runs for a small food distribution business he owns. After he finishes runs around noon, he has just a few hours before he heads to class until 9 p.m.
Gross is a student in Ivy Tech's aviation maintenance technology program, which moved this year into a new building at Smith Field Airport. Gross became a student in the program last spring when the program was located off Ludwig Road.
At the previous building, with just two classrooms, the program couldn't offer the number and flexibility of classes that students like Gross needed. With a bigger building and more options, Gross hopes to finish the program in one year.
"There's no way I could have finished (in a year) at the old building," he said. "Having more classrooms has opened up the schedule. Now we have more options."
Ivy Tech and Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority officials hope the new location will better serve Gross and other students, to graduate more students with certifications and to create a workforce in the area that will attract airlines to the north-side airport.
Expansion increases options
Students arrived in the new Ivy Tech Aviation Center, 405 W. Cook Road, for the first day of classes Monday. The building replaces the former home, a site that Ivy Tech quickly outgrew.
Last week aviation technology program chair Sheena Nolin said the program required three additional adjunct professors to help with the influx of students. About 75 are already enrolled this year, which doesn't include the 18-20 high school students who will take classes in the program half day. Last spring the program enrolled 72 students total.
The new building has space for as many as 200 students if the program continues to expand, with as many computer labs as classrooms in the previous building.
Ivy Tech owns the building, but rents the land from the airport as part of a 50-year lease.
The location was chosen mostly because it is more convenient, with access to public transportation for students.
The program at its former building was rife with problems including low graduation rates, and even the students who graduated were unable to pass tests to receive the required certifications. Classroom space was inadequate with just two classrooms for 75 students.
"It caused a scheduling nightmare, which is why students couldn't get through the program," Nolin said.
The program is at least 5 years old, Nolin said. In her year and a half leading the program, just 20 students have graduated and received some type of certification. After program completion, students have the option to achieve two different certification options or can try for both.
The half-day program for high school students only allows enough time to complete training for one of the two certifications, but Nolin said about 75 percent of high school students continue training to become certified in both areas.
The program demands a minimum of two years, or the equivalent of 1,900 hours, "depending on student time and dedication," Nolin said.
Program entices students
The airport is pushing Ivy Tech to get students through the program more quickly, focusing on students who are serious about becoming certified.
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