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March 27, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: The cost of not completing college

Indiana has one of the most generous college financial aid systems in the country, spending more than $280 million on need-based grants and scholarships in the past year alone. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that far too many Hoosiers start college and never finish, and most do not graduate on time.

Graduating on time is especially important for students receiving state financial aid because their tuition support runs out after four years. Yet, only half of students receiving state aid today are taking enough courses to finish in four years, and more than half never graduate at all.

To remedy this problem, proposed legislation under House Bill 1348 would link financial aid to student progress, encouraging and rewarding full-time students who complete the minimum number of courses (30 credits per year) required to graduate on time. HB 1348 would also provide Indiana college students with semester-by-semester degree maps that clearly outline the specific courses they need to graduate.

At the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, we are driven by a sense of urgency to increase college completion and student success. In a state that currently ranks 40th nationally in the number of adults with education beyond high school, we simply cannot afford to be satisfied with the status quo. Increasing education attainment is a shared responsibility, one that must be owned jointly by our state, Indiana colleges and Hoosier students themselves.

That’s why our Commission has asked the Indiana General Assembly to increase funding for Indiana colleges and student financial aid in the next state budget. It’s also why we’re calling on our colleges to rein in unsustainable tuition increases and asking Hoosier students to make smarter choices about how they finance and plan their path to a college degree.

Indiana students aren’t well served by the promise of college access without completion, and taxpayers have a right to expect a better return on their investment. Anything less would be a disservice to students, their families and our state.

Teresa Lubbers

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education

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