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July 22, 2013

Stanczykiewicz: Changes coming to 21st Century Scholars

New requirements have been implemented for Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program which provides funding to low-income students to obtain additional education after high school. Seventh- and eighth-graders eligible for free or reduced price meals at school may enroll. Scholars must graduate high school with a 2.5 or higher GPA and stay away from drugs, alcohol and other criminal behavior to earn scholarships equivalent to public university tuition good at public or private college or university in Indiana.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) says more than 100,000 students are enrolled – 15,000 in postsecondary education, 85,000 in middle and high school. Despite more than $200 million granted in 21st Century Scholarships in the last five years, too many Scholars struggle to earn a degree or credential.Scholars graduate from high school at a rate higher than the state average (90 percent to 88 percent) but earn associate or bachelor’s degrees at lower rates than the state average.So ICHE has implemented the Scholar Success Program – 12 steps Scholars must complete in high school to earn the scholarship.“We feel a sense of urgency to improve the success rates of 21st Century Scholars and make a great state program even stronger,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. “We believe the new Scholar Success Program requirements will go a long way toward providing Scholars with added structure and support they need to stay on the path to college readiness and completion.”High school freshmen must write a graduation plan, complete a learning module on college finances and be involved with an extra-curricular or community service activity.Diana Washington, a Scholars outreach coordinator who helps students enroll and remain eligible, says positive activities outside of the classroom help students prepare for postsecondary success. Sophomore requirements include completing a career interest assessment, visiting a workplace and utilizing the Indiana College Cost Estimator (www.indianacollegecosts.org).High school juniors must make a college visit, take a college entrance exam (ACT or SAT) and search for additional scholarships. According to Chris Enstrom, director of outreach, too many Scholars do not realize they are still eligible for other financial aid, including the federal Pell grant.As seniors, Scholars must submit a college application, complete the learning session, “College Success 101,” and file the FAFSA student aid form.Matt Fleck, a former Indiana Department of Education official who now advises schools and families on postsecondary financial aid, said the Scholar Success Program can help low-income students obtain more education leading to better jobs at higher wages.You can help students succeed by volunteering to mentor (www.abetterhour.org) and by spreading the word about the Scholar Success Program through employers and community organizations (www.scholars.in.gov).

Bill Stanczykiewicz is president & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at iyi@iyi.org.

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