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The state's community college system plays a critical role in a comprehensive, integrated system of postsecondary education. It provides a postsecondary option that is local, has low tuition and offers expanded general education courses for students who want to earn an associate degree or need coursework before transferring to a four-year university.
It also provides flexibility for working adults to continue their education and for students to receive workforce training to meet business needs. In Indiana, more than 900,000 working-age adults have not completed high school, speak little or no English, or earn less than a living wage - a segment of the population that needs support to become employed or advance in their careers.
Yet even with the substantial enrollment increase of more than 30,000 students since 2000, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana enrolls only 33 percent of all students attending a public postsecondary institution, compared with a national average of approximately 45 percent. And far too few of these students go on to earn a degree, a challenge faced by community colleges nationwide.
Fewer than one-quarter of full-time Ivy Tech students seeking an associate degree graduate within three years, and only 15 percent of part-time students graduate within seven years. Clearly, community colleges face significant challenges in raising degree completion rates, including:
In addition, of all the higher education students, those at community colleges are most affected by price increases, and cost can be a significant factor in whether students enroll in community college and go on to earn a degree. Over the past 10 years, community college tuition in Indiana has increased 46 percent from $1,937 to $2,819 per year, which is significantly lower than the average tuition increase at community colleges nationwide but still presents a challenge for many students.
Many community college students are older and/or independent students who no longer receive financial support from their parents. Many also are first-generation students from low-income families and may not decide to apply until after the March 10 financial aid deadline. Because the majority of community college students attend part time, they are not eligible for federal Pell Grants unless they enroll in at least six credit hours.
To raise community college graduation rates and focus on the role of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has released a series of Community College recommendations.