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College completion trends improve, though gaps remain

(image courtesy of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) – Indiana’s new 2020 College Completion Report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education shows college graduation rates for the state are improving. However, the commission says the report shows a widening on-time completion gap for Black and Hispanic students.

According to the report, more than 42% of all Hoosier college students graduated on time in 2019, while nearly 62% of all students graduate within six years.

“Our best tool for gauging success in higher education is college completion; it is one of the three priority areas the commission has outlined in our new strategic plan, Reaching Higher in a State of Change,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers. “The data in this report serve as an important measure for how Indiana’s colleges and universities are preparing and supporting students. We use data to drive change and the unfortunate reality is the data show that while we’ve seen improvement, we are not closing the achievement gaps for Black and Hispanic students.”

The state says it measures college completion in two ways: on-time completion, meaning students graduate within two years for an associate degree or four years for a bachelor’s degree, and extended-time completion, meaning students graduate within six years of beginning any degree program.

The overall on-time and extended-time completion rates have trended upward in Indiana for underrepresented races and ethnicities (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Other) over the past five years.

(image courtesy of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education)

However, despite the 11% increase in on-time completion rates for Black students over that time, the report indicates the gap between Black students and the statewide average continues to grow. The report shows there was a 21 percentage point gap in on-time completion between Black students and the statewide average in 2019, the widest gap in at least 10 years.

“We know COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic Hoosiers, both in terms of health outcomes and economic burden,” said Lubbers. “It is critical for Indiana to work toward educational equity and close these achievement gaps to give all Hoosier students access to the opportunities afforded by quality higher learning. We cannot reach our goal of at least 60% of Hoosiers with a quality degree or credential beyond a high school diploma without closing these gaps.”

Later this summer, the commission says it will release its third Equity Report. The report provides a deeper analysis of the performance of Indiana’s underrepresented populations.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.