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Removing barriers to help more students gain access to a college education has been a primary focus of higher education policy at the national level for six decades, dating back to the landmark GI Bill. These policies have been very successful — college enrollment has increased overall as well as for low-income, minority and female students. In many ways, providing access to college helped build the middle class and has contributed significantly to the nation’s — and Indiana’s — economic prosperity.
Though Indiana can be proud of broadening access to college, these accomplishments have not necessarily translated into degree success for all students. College graduation rates in general have not improved dramatically over the past decade.
There are clear economic and personal benefits for earning an associate or a bachelor’s degree. Compared to someone with only a high school diploma, persons with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $18,540 more each year.
Focusing only on going to college and not necessarily on earning a degree may give Hoosier students a false sense of security about leaving college before graduation and could jeopardize the state’s ability to be competitive in the global economy.
It is time to set our standards higher — access is not sufficient; student persistence and completion must become the new benchmarks. With this in mind, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has released a series of College Completion recommendations.