Media merger could be worth millions to IU

  • Sept. 25, 2013

By Jon Blau

The merger of the School of Journalism and two media-focused departments at Indiana University could lay the groundwork for about $7.7 million in new revenue for the institution, according to a proposal submitted to President Michael McRobbie this week.

IU Provost Lauren Robel has proposed that 75 faculty members from communication and culture, telecommunications and journalism work under one roof as part of the College of Arts and Sciences -- making a new, media-focused “MSchool.” The proposal was touted as a way to maximize media-related programs, but the draft proposal also outlines new revenue a media school could bring in, some of it through added graduate degree tracks.

The “MSchool,” as it is referred to in the proposal, is destined for the board of trustees in October. Robel’s plan calls for new Ph.D. programs, a digital mediacertificate and a “3+2” track for students who want to work on undergraduate and graduate degrees over a five-year period.

“The opportunity to ease boundaries and provide comprehensive and flexible educational programs (is) one of the most important reasons for bringing the new school into existence. The 3+2 programs are just an example of the kind of flexible education that is highly facilitated by a single school,” Robel said via email Tuesday.

“We are at the beginning of innovating in this area, and like most universities, are doing so to provide students with both a strong liberal arts grounding and the ability to receive additional meaningful credentials that help launch them into their work lives.”

The MSchool would be formed July 1, 2014, and projections show enrollment of approximately 1,875 undergraduates in three years. In total, the proposal estimates that, even if only one-quarter of the media school’s majors are new students attracted to IU, additional revenues from undergrad tuition during the school’s third year would be $5 million.

But the proposal says the “real marginal revenue potential of the MSchool lies in its graduate programs,” including a plan to establish 130 master’s degree tracks and online programs that are modeled on the Kelley School of Business’ “Kelley Direct” degrees for distance learning. The media school’s graduate programs could pull in $2.7 million by the third year, the proposal says.

While the proposal continues by saying there are pressures against increasing the campus population, it cites the untapped potential of online programs to bring in even more money.

“The growth capacity of this degree is substantial and the future revenue potential is significantly greater than the year-three revenue estimate,” the proposal says of the online program.

With consolidation comes cost savings, as well. A memorandum of understanding between the School of Journalism and COAS guarantees that staff positions will be maintained for two years after the merger, but the proposal states that jobs such as a budget officer, a communication specialist, IT support and assistants will be filled by personnel from all three departments; those people will be in line for raises, but there will be “savings in staff costs due to the economies of scale achieved by merging faculty into larger units.”

As promised by Robel in a meeting with the Bloomington Faculty Council last week, the proposal, which must be approved and put before the trustees by McRobbie, does not include specific curricula or offer the dissolution of any departments. Robel and Dean Larry Singell of the College of Arts and Sciences said last week that faculty members will not be required to move to the school, and they will work with them to find different places at the university if they want.

Though the media school has yet to be completely defined, there are some specific dreams for it in the proposal, including a scenario described in which the MSchool could partner with the IU Cinema to create a film festival that would highlight students’ work, making Bloomington “the destination for film in the Midwest.” There is also the potential for journalism students to create stories featuring multiple platforms in one piece, the written word plus video, to be shared with alumni, the proposal said. The proposal reserves more than $500,000 for a journalism student travel budget.

The programs that will likely be included in an MSchool, according to the proposal, are: advertising and strategic communications, cinema and film studies, communication studies, health communication, international and global media and communication, journalism, media industry and management, media studies, visual communication, digital and interactive media, game studies, film and media arts and media production.

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.