Ball State and Muncie: Two communities, one vision
The college-town feel between Muncie and Ball State University, despite a 100-year history, has always been elusive. There’s never been that inextricable connection between the city and its college like there is Indiana University and Bloomington or the University of Missouri and Columbia or State College and Penn State. But that may be on the verge of changing. The effort to connect town and gown is growing stronger with unprecedented alliances between Muncie’s once-troubled urban schools, the city’s transportation system and even connections of health needs and economic development.
The Village, Ball State University’s business and entertainment district, is designated by the city an “opportunity zone,” and may provide a much-needed lifeline for both. The city’s weakened urban school district, held accountable now by the university’s administrators and an appointed – not elected – school board is another link in an evolving town-and-gown relationship.
Community members reflect on lack of voter participation in local elections and the town and gown divide.
To bridge the divide between university and city, over the past year, Ball State’s transportation added and expanded extra routes as MITS, Muncie’s own transit system, has created a new app catering to Muncie’s population.
Two years ago, Muncie Community Schools was on the brink of financial collapse. In 2018, Muncie Community Schools received a D grade from the Indiana Department of Education and was placed under an emergency order from the state when Ball State University and a handful of legislators crafted a controversial plan to step in, setting the stage for a new kind of public school system.
Generally poor health practices in Muncie and Delaware County have been a springboard for town-and-gown partnerships aimed at addressing issues like obesity and smoking.