According to a recent Ball State University (BSU) study, on average, the standard of living for Hoosiers is equivalent to living in 1996. After reading that report, now, more than ever, we must incentivize students to obtain college degrees and help make them affordable so that students leaving college experience less debt and can enter the workforce more quickly.
However, many of us have read recent headlines: Crippling debt defers graduates' dreams (Boston Globe), Class of 2013 faces grim job prospects (CNN), New College Grads: What to Do With Your Loans and Everything Else! (Forbes). This has become a nationwide issue and deterred high school graduates from pursuing higher education.
A Pew Research Center study shows a typical college graduate earns an estimated $650,000 more during their career than a high school graduate. This study joins countless others proclaiming the key to higher paying jobs and the way to increase the standard of living for Hoosier families is through higher education.
Education is the most important investment that a young adult can make. As the Ways and Means Higher Education Subcommittee Chair, I have worked alongside the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) to protect that investment while working to: lower the cost of a degree, limit the amount of student loan debt, increase graduation rates, achieve more degrees for tax dollars spent and most importantly, help students enter the workforce quickly, earning a self-sustaining income.
This year, working to achieve these goals, I authored House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1348. The law makes various changes to the Frank O’Bannon Grant and 21st Century Scholars Program, encouraging students to maintain a four year graduation pace. Staying on track decreases the debt burden students experience after college.
Forty-four percent of students graduate in six years rather than four, and each additional year can cost these students an extra $50,000 more in lost wages, tuition and other related costs – estimates the CHE. HEA 1348 holds students accountable to maintain a four year pace by requiring them to take 30 credits per year as well as basing financial assistance on classes completed rather than classes registered for.
According to a CHE survey, 90 percent of students are more likely to take summer classes if aid is available, and through HEA 1348, which extends financial assistance into the summer months, students are more likely to graduate on-time or enter the workforce in less than four years.
As an added bonus, HEA 1348 provides that the CHE may offer an incentive-based award centered on student performance and increases financial assistance for students that complete 15 credit hours or more per college semester.
One significant component of the law is mandating state colleges to develop a ‘degree map’ to help full-time students, enrolling after July 31, 2014, to stay on track throughout academia. On average, according to the CHE, 25 percent of all students attending Indiana’s public colleges drop-out after their first year, and a ‘degree map’ will help reduce that number.
Additionally, HEA 1348 requires Indiana’s public colleges to ensure that courses, coinciding with a student's ‘degree map,’ are available for the student during their academic term. If the required class conflicts with other courses or is full, the law designates that the college must provide that course to the student at no cost during the next academic term.
The 21st Century Scholars Program works to ensure success prior to entering college. Scholars in the 21st Century Program are required to obtain a Core 40 high school diploma with a minimum 2.5 grade point average. Additionally, the Indiana’s Scholar Success Program helps students to plan their path, providing them with the tools necessary to be college-ready as well as information on paying for college though scholarships.
The program helps students prepare for college by using the following strategies: establish a graduation plan, discover career interests, obtain workplace experience, conduct a scholarship search, estimate college cost and enroll in extra-curricular activity to list a few. Visit www.LearnMoreIndiana.org for additional information about the program.
In lieu of the BSU study, news stories and as the federal government struggles with finding an appropriate solution to address college graduation rates, interest rates, student loan debt, etc., my colleagues and I have made significant strides in Indiana to address this issue. I continue to look for innovate solutions so that the standard of living for Hoosier families is no longer in 1996 but rather, ahead of the curve.
If you have ideas of how Indiana can help college students or questions regarding anything I have discussed, please let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 317-232-9619. You can visit www.in.gov/legislative for additional information as well.