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Former Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Former Governor Pence > Newsroom > Speeches > Opening address at the Kent Weldon Conference for Higher Education Opening address at the Kent Weldon Conference for Higher Education

Governor Mike Pence
April 2, 2013

As prepared for delivery:

Getting Kids to College and through College
Making College More Affordable and Indiana More Prosperous

Thank you, Teresa, for that kind introduction. And thank you all for inviting me to kick off your conference today.

College Affordability and the Economy
My focus since even before my first day in office has been jobs. Indiana is in a strong position compared to many of her neighbors, but our economy is still struggling. Unemployment remains above 8 percent, and that must change.

At the same time, employers I talk to tell me that they have jobs open, but they can't find qualified employees.

The solution to these two problems is the same: education. We must recognize that education is critical to our success in job creation. Our state's education system, and particularly its higher education system, will play a key role in Indiana's economic development, because they will provide the well-qualified employees companies need to be successful.

If we want to get Indiana's economy moving again, we have to continue to push for students to pursue higher education.

In today's economy, higher education is more important than ever. Bridging the skills gap is now the biggest hurdle we have when we're trying to convince companies to relocate to and expand in Indiana.

Our business climate is competitive with any state in the nation, but employers need assurance that if they open that new office or manufacturing site in Indiana, they'll be able to fill it with a workforce ready to meet the demands of the modern economy.

Those demands are constantly increasing. Complete College America tells us that in 2020, 58 percent of jobs in Indiana will require a college degree or career credential. In Indiana, only 36 percent of Hoosiers have an associate's degree or higher. That's a 22 percentage-point skills gap that we need to close in seven years.

It is well known that higher education is the key to job opportunities and a high income trajectory. So why do about 1,000,000 Hoosiers have at most a high school diploma?

Cost is a major hurdle for many students. Today, Indiana is ranked 45th in the nation in terms of the state's cost per four year degree, with an average cost of $85,833 per four year degree awarded. The national median is $68,140. This is due, in part, to the fact that students are not progressing toward on-time graduation

The statewide on-time graduation rate for all Indiana public college students was 23 percent last year, and only 13 percent of our 21st Century Scholars graduated on time. The national average for on-time graduation is about 31 percent.

Legislative Agenda on Higher Education
My administration is already working on this problem, with input and ideas from the leadership of many of the state's higher education institutions. We are focused on three main goals:

  1. Making college more affordable by focusing the state's funding on programs that decrease the cost of degree completion.
  2. Rewarding Hoosier college students who graduate early or on time.
  3. Rewarding colleges and universities that increase on-time degree completion and provide clear pathways for students to finish their degrees on time.

We have legislation currently moving that will help address these issues. In fact, just yesterday, the House passed Senate Bill 532 with bipartisan support. The bill allows the Indiana Secondary Market for Education Loans to provide direct loans to Indiana students to satisfy financing gaps created by the increasing costs of higher education and the shrinking pool of federal dollars available to students. The bill also allows ISM to provide financial education programs to students that will help them make responsible decisions about how to pay for higher education.

Indiana Secondary Market's view is that the best student loan is the one a student doesn't have to take. I agree. And that's why we're supporting another bill this session that will help increase on-time graduation rates and reduce the costs students incur by having to extend their time in a higher education program by another year or more.

House Bill 1348 has passed the House and is now pending in Senate Appropriations. The Senate Education Committee members gave the bill unanimous support last week.

We had a lot of great input on this bill from Commissioner Lubbers and the Commission on Higher Education, particularly in reforming student financial aid to incentivize students to stay on track so they can graduate on time.

This bill requires public colleges and universities to commit to on-time degree pathways for each student seeking an associate or bachelor's degree. Many institutions here today are already doing this, and I commend you for your efforts to give your students a clear path to graduation. But we have to ensure all students enter higher education with a plan for obtaining a degree and not for merely accumulating credit hours. Because we know that it is a degree that provides currency in the marketplace.

We believe that if the students do their part and complete the classes in their degree maps, but they reach a point where they cannot take a class because the institution does not offer it when the student needs it, the institution should either make another course available or bear the cost of the extra class instead of the student.

If students do everything they need to do to make progress toward gradation, they should not be forced to extend the time it will take them to graduate because a required class is unavailable. Each year a student remains in higher education, it costs the student $50,000 and it deprives our state of a productive member of the workforce.

We also believe we should reward college students for on-time and early graduation by reallocating a portion of existing student grants to return a portion of the cost savings the state recognizes to the student. So we've included some incentives that go straight into the student's pocket -- $1500 for early graduation from a bachelor's program and $1000 for graduating on time. For an associate degree, students will get a bonus of $1250 for graduating early, and $750 for graduating on time.

We also have House Bill 1005 on remediation moving. This is another agenda bill designed to help control the cost of higher education by ensuring high school students enter college prepared for college coursework.

Many of you are painfully aware that about one-third of our high school graduates require some form of remediation after high school. We know these students will take longer and spend more to obtain degrees due to the extra time and cost of postsecondary remediation, but that's IF they continue on to complete a degree at all.

According to Complete College America, of the 46.4 percent of two-year college freshmen in Indiana who required remediation, only 9.2 percent will graduate within three years. Of the 12.4 percent of freshmen students enrolled in four-year programs who required remediation, only 41.2 percent graduate within six years.

We must do better. When we hand students a high school diploma, they and their families assume it indicates they're ready for postsecondary coursework. And yet one of every three students who arrive at one of our colleges or universities learns they have to take remedial classes that don't count toward a degree just so they can be ready to take credit-bearing courses. And then we wonder why so many students have trouble graduating within four years.

We have to continue to demand high standards and accountability in our K-12 education system. It's the right thing for our kids, and it's the right thing for our state. And that's why our administration supports House Bill 1005, which is a bill that will significantly reduce the number of students who require postsecondary remediation. It will provide K-12 educators with tools to identify in high school those students who are at risk of requiring remediation - and provide them with the opportunity to get the extra help they need before they graduate and head to college or the workforce.

Companies are already being drawn to Indiana because they know they will find a workforce here that has a strong work ethic. Hoosiers work hard and take pride in a job well done. But workforce matters and having access to well-educated employees can make or break a company's decision.

Just recently, I joined executives from GEICO as they announced their decision to bring as many as 1200 new jobs by 2016. The key to their decision to locate in Indiana was our strength in insurance education, with programs at Ball State University, Indiana State University and Butler University, as well as outstanding business programs at many of our other institutions of higher education. GEICO was attracted by Indiana's skilled workforce.

Ultimately, getting more students to college and THROUGH college is good for them and good for the whole state.

I want Indiana to be the best place to get a job and the best place to grow a business. As we look to the future, both of those goals depend on more Hoosiers seeking and completing a college degree.

Thank you for your partnership as we tackle this challenge. We look forward to continuing to work together with you to help Indiana be the very best it can be.


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