Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Indiana governor, listens to a question during the question-and-answer part of his speech at the Warsaw Optimist Club at the Shrine Building at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds Wednesday. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union
Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Indiana governor, listens to a question during the question-and-answer part of his speech at the Warsaw Optimist Club at the Shrine Building at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds Wednesday. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union
Mitch Daniels, current Purdue University president and former Indiana governor, touted the success of the university under his tenure during a speech to the Warsaw Optimist Club Wednesday at the Shrine Building at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds.

Applications have more than doubled in the time Daniels has been at Purdue and 69,000 people from around the world are seeking to go to Purdue this year. He said the university has grown by 30% to meet that demand.

At the Lafayette campus, there are over 50,000 students at Purdue, with 38,000 undergraduates and 12,000 graduate students. There is a growing number online of graduate students.

There are 800,000 people that went to college and never finished, he said. That’s the type of people Purdue Global, a public online university, serves, and Daniels said there’s some heart-warming stories coming out of Purdue Global.

Part of that, he said, is there is a record number of Indiana students on Purdue’s campus.

“That’s a central part of our mission. We are pushing for that now,” he said.

Daniels said this is the 10th year the university has not increased tuition as it has had a tuition freeze. He also said Purdue is looking to do it next year, as well. He said he never imagined to do a tuition freeze for as long as the university has.

He also said, tuition isn’t everything, as room and board can possibly be just as expensive. Of the Big 10, he said Purdue has the cheapest room and board. He said people look at a lot at tuition, but colleges strap students with a lot of different fees and Purdue looks at all of them.

He said 60% of Purdue students graduate with no debt at all, which is above the national average. About 99% of Purdue students pay back their college debts.

When asked about debt forgiveness, Daniels said he has firm thoughts on debt forgiveness, “or so-called cancellation.”

“First thing, just remember, they’re not cancelled. They’ve just got shifted to you and all the other tax payers,” he said. “Nothing got cancelled here.”

He said debt forgiveness is very misguided and very unfortunate as an act of public policy because it’s incredibly unfair. There’s no way to do debt forgiveness that doesn’t reward people who don’t need it as it much as people who are hard up.

“A whole lot people who got that debt forgiveness are already making high incomes and many more of them are on their way,” he said.

It’s also unfair to people who paid their debts back and some of them sacrificed to do that.

He also said it’s fiscally "incredibly reckless" due to the national debt the nation already has.

He also called Biden’s debt forgiveness plan an “incredible affront” to the U.S. Constitution, as the Constitution says who has the purse strings of the nation - the U.S. Congress.

Daniels said the four-year degree is sort of an American invention and three-year degrees are more common in Europe and other places.

“We’ve done everything we can to make it possible for students,” which includes allowing students to earn credits over the summer. He said most of the university’s degrees are achievable in three years. It benefits by getting through college faster and more affordability and it benefits them by allowing them to get out in the workforce a year earlier.

He took the job at Purdue because it was the university’s time as it’s a time of technology. Purdue was started to spread education to the masses and specialize in agriculture and the mechanical arts. He said, now, agriculture has expanded to mean biotechnology “and all sorts of prevalent and sophisticated technology.” Mechanical arts is also biotechnology and “all the things we marvel at.” He said students in STEM majors at Purdue have grown from 41% to 68%.

“So we are turning out more engineers and technologists than any other school anywhere,” he said. “And that’s something we’ve done on purpose and invested a lot of money to make happen.”

Holding down costs is only part of the equation, Daniels said. “It is quality over cost. That is the definition of value, no matter what you’re doing or selling. So we work very hard on quality.”

He said Purdue constantly thinks of its public responsibility

“We never forget we are a public and a land-grant university. The phrase we use all the time is ‘excellence at scale,’” he said.

Asked about free speech on Purdue’s campus, Daniels said free speech is very important. He said it is uncognizable that at too many places students aren’t taught how to think, they’re taught what to think. There are too many places people are too afraid to say what they think. It’s a disgrace anywhere it happens, but the worst place to have it happen is at a college campus, which is supposed to be the home of free inquiry and any idea is fair game.

Daniels was asked how Purdue handles when conservative speakers come to speak as there have been instances at other universities where some students and faculty protest. Daniels said Purdue hasn’t had much of a problem with that. He said the university has put out that it wouldn’t put up with students and faculty getting out of hand. However, they still allow free speech. There have been instances where the university has had speakers where students and/or faculty wanted to express their disagreement.

“We let them. They know what the rules are - be outside. If you come inside, you can’t block anyone’s view and you can’t disrupt things,” he said.

He said the entire academic enterprise is about the advancement of knowledge and sharing knowledge with the oncoming generations. It’s hard to advance knowledge when everyone thinks the same thing.