Pharos-Tribune

September 27, 2013

Higher ed commish: 'College-going' culture a must

State higher ed commissioner says future careers require post-secondary education.

By Sue Loughlin For the Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — TERRE HAUTE — Indiana must develop more of a “college-going” culture because jobs of the 21st century require education and training beyond high school, Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education, said Tuesday.

Lubbers spoke at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College as part of a College Success Summit. The event was hosted by the Vigo County College Success Coalition.

Indiana currently ranks 40th nationally in both educational attainment and personal per capita income, both directly linked to the fact that only a third of Hoosier adults have more than a high school diploma, according to the Commission for Higher Education.

Indiana has set a goal of increasing the proportion of Hoosiers with a college credential, including one-year workforce certificates, two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees, to 60 percent of the state’s population by 2025.

According to Lubbers, some mistakenly believe the Commission for Higher Education is focused only on four-year degrees and above. She said that is not the case.

About 130 people attended the summit, including representatives of the community’s five colleges, the Vigo County School Corp., Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. and college students.

Lubbers said that when she talks to high school students, she is blunt in telling them: “There is no career pathway for someone who drops out of high school.” Most who drop out will struggle and very likely live in poverty, she said.

The state has been redesigning its high school career and technology programs so students can graduate with a diploma and credentials that enable them to enter the workforce with an opportunity to advance.

Several speakers at the summit outlined programs or initiatives their institutions have undertaken. Ann Valentine, Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley chancellor, noted that the region partners with 30 school districts in dual-credit agreements.

“We predict that during this academic year alone, high school students in this area will earn nearly 3,000 college credit hours through dual-credit articulations, saving Hoosier students and families $435,000” at Ivy Tech tuition rates, Valentine said.

Ivy Tech also has advisers who go to high schools to help students map their dual credits into academic plans for college completion, Valentine said. Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., said when companies look to locate here, their top concern is whether the community can provide the workforce the company needs to run a successful operation and make money.

With Vigo County’s colleges and many other resources, “there’s no reason we can’t stand head and shoulders above our competition throughout Indiana, the Midwest” and the nation, Witt said.

In an interview after the summit, Lubbers said the state can have goals, but it will take the efforts of local communities – and groups such as the Vigo County College Success Coalition – to get them accomplished.

She said Vigo County has leadership that is “really committed” to improving college attainment.

Rachel Leslie, the Woods associate vice president for advancement, said the Vigo County Success Coalition has about 60 members and a smaller steering committee that meets more often. The coalition’s purpose is to provide programming that will allow better access to higher education or education beyond high school.

The coalition’s next meeting is in November. Any businesses or organizations that want to be involved are encouraged to join, she said. More information can be found at learmoreindiana.org.

Dottie King, president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said the summit provided an opportunity to highlight the resources that students have in Vigo County. The colleges have diversity of mission, “and yet together we’re quite a complete package.”

She hopes to see even more collaboration that will encourage students to pursue post-secondary education.

Lubbers’ visit to Vigo County was part of her “College Success Tour.” “Today we have 50 county coalitions working together to offer students and families across Indiana more opportunities and brighter futures, and we plan to bring on an additional 20 counties each year until we have reached all 92 Indiana counties,” she said in a news release.