May 13, 2014

THEIR VIEW: We must promote higher education


---- — During her recent visit to Anderson, Glenda Ritz offered proof that higher education has its rewards when she talked with high school girls at Anderson Preparatory Academy.

By providing personal examples, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction told her own story of working various jobs to earn money for college tuition.

She obtained master’s degrees with licenses to teach general education, special education and library science. Diploma in hand, she was diligent in calling Washington Township schools in Indianapolis to seek a job, which she eventually landed.

Her message reinforced the idea that higher education can lead to a successful career. The message can’t be reiterated enough for all Hoosier students. A college degree often sets job-seekers apart from other candidates.

The percentage of Hoosiers with a college diploma has gone up during the last five years to 34 percent for working-age adults between the ages of 25 and 34. The national average is 39 percent and Indiana still ranks in the bottom 10 states for college attainment, according to a national report by the Lumina Foundation.

The percentage increase is laudable and due, in part, to state efforts including changes in the 21st Century Scholars program that tracks low-income students going to college in Indiana. Parents and educators should also be commended for reinforcing the promises of obtaining a college diploma.

To keep the trend headed in a positive direction, there are still initiatives that have to be tackled. Foremost is tracking students as they move through K-12 classes, into college and through the workforce.

Some privacy advocates are battling the collection of such personal information in a database known as the Indiana Network of Knowledge; many believe the system could be misused. But there is perhaps no better way to understand whether Hoosier students are obtaining the proper skills to fill — and succeed in — Indiana’s workforce.

Locally, Madison County ranks 30th among Indiana’s 92 counties in the percentage (28.2 percent) of adults with at least an associate degree.

This community can go a long way in stressing the value of completing school, learning new developments in the workforce and finding successful and satisfying employment. College has to be affordable, and more accessible routes need to be created to higher education.

Bringing Glenda Ritz to Anderson is a prime example of how educators can reach local teens.

But every Indiana community has to stress the importance of graduating high school and emphasizing that higher education is the best path to a bright future.

— The Herald Bulletin, Anderson