Education

Indiana Commission for Higher Learning data says fewer Hoosiers are going to college

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Commission for Higher Education last week kicked off its Education Value Movement to help curb the college-going decline that’s been happening in the state.

In an effort to encourage more Hoosiers to pursue some form of education or training beyond high school, it was created out of 18 months of research to understand why people weren’t going to college. The campaign is set to continuously roll out until February.

Commissioner Chris Lowery said there’ve been efforts in the past to talk more about the value of education, but this particular campaign is a real concerted effort because the commission has seen challenges in the college going-rate out of high school along with adults who could utilize a credentials beyond a high school diploma.

“We’ve done our own research which looks at affordability and then people just questioning the value of it, the quality of it and career relevance. So, ‘Will it help me to get the type of job and career that I want?’” Lowery said.

Since 2015, data by the commission shows that college enrollment has been on a steady decline.

In 2020, only 53% of high school seniors enrolled in college. The data also shows that the state’s numbers have been falling behind national numbers.

The commission oversees the financial aid packages for the state.

Lowery said there’s a lot of benefits to higher education that he believes aren’t spoken about enough. “The economic outcomes, lower unemployment rates with education beyond high school. Whether it’s a certificate, associate degree, bachelors degree and beyond. Higher labor participating. Higher wages. The premium between a high school diploma and a bachelors degree is about 85%. That’s huge,” Lowery said, “We’re first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation in need-based financial aid. That we need to be telling folks more about, right? because if someone’s thinking, ‘Gosh, can I afford it?’ but they don’t realize we have financial aid available then we need to do a much better job of that.”

He said a lot of times what people tend to hear about college are the extremes of debt and the horror stories of someone graduating with a quarter-of-a-million dollars in debt with no job. Lowery said, in Indiana, outcomes of not having extreme debt are much better, especially when it comes to public institutions in the state.

“When you look at how other states in the U.S. have increased their tuition and fees over, say the last decade, our state is one of the very best. In fact, when you adjust it for inflation our state institutions are -4% in tuition and fees,” Lowery said.

The commission said if the state continues on this trajectory of decline, future employers are going to find it even harder to hire. It would be a domino effect with businesses being unable to grow, the state being unable to attract investors and even the individual Hoosiers feeling the affects of a changing economy.

“Everything is becoming more automated, digitized, tech-oriented. As that occurs, without the right kind of skills, too many folks are just going to be left out,” Lowery said.

Knowing that it’s going to take more than just government to convince teens and adults to go to college, they’re calling on entrepreneurs, employers and communities to help teach the value of higher education.

The movement kicked off with radio, TV and social media ads featuring Jerome “The Bus” Bettis. Recently, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star and Detroit native went back to finish his business degree at the University of Notre Dame, where he’d started nearly three decades earlier. The commission obtained an exclusive interview with Bettis about why completing his postsecondary education was important to him and why he believes it’s important for others.

Lowery also said, compared to other states, Indiana’s approach to higher education is also an easier path than some may think.

“When you look at how other states in the U.S. have increased their tuition and fees over, say the last decade, our state is one of the very best. In fact, when you adjust it for inflation our state institutions are -4% in tuition and fees,” Lowery said.

On Tuesday, the commission will host an event bringing representatives of the Indiana 21st Century Scholars Program to talk to students at Brownsburg High School to continue the Education Value Movement campaign.