TERRE HAUTE —
In Indiana, 737,000 adult Hoosiers have some college but no degree.
The Commission for Higher Education on Thursday approved a new Return and Complete initiative aimed at encouraging more of those adult Hoosiers to go back and finish that degree.
Getting that adult population to return to college would require programs that meet their needs as well as encouragement — financial and other — to go back.
People often say they want to go back and finish but the time has not been right. “We want to make this the right time for them,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education.
The commission met at Indiana State University and voted to accept the Return and Complete initiative, which directs staff to work with colleges to carry it out.
“We haven’t established the exact process of how we’ll do it,” Lubbers said before the meeting. “We are at the point of being committed to this population.”
Some colleges are offering tuition discounts to encourage adult students to come back and finish degrees, Lubbers said. There also potentially could be state-level financial incentives for those who complete, such as forgiveness of a portion of tuition, she said.
She noted that some people have not exhausted all of their financial aid. “You get eight semesters of financial aid in Indiana. We could go back and say … you still haven’t exhausted all of your state financial aid. There is now a reason to go back and do this,” Lubbers said.
The opportunity to return to college through various financial incentives can’t be open forever, she said. Also, officials don’t want to encourage someone to drop out now and get a bonus later.
“You have to do this with people who already have a certain number of credits and offer it for a certain period of time,” Lubbers said. “It’s almost like a tax amnesty idea. You give people a period of time and they have to take advantage of it.”
Indiana has adopted a goal that 60 percent of working-age adults hold a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. Reaching that goal requires greater success not only with the traditional high school graduate, but also with adults who have completed some college. “We need to find a compelling reason to convince people to go back and get a credential or a degree,” Lubbers said.
Achieving the state’s goal will mean getting at least 300,000 of the 737,000 who have some college education to finish their degree. The goal is for that to happen by May 15, 2020.
Credentials and degrees are important, the state says, because it means a stronger workforce and enhanced income mobility.
The Indiana Career Council will make the issue part of its strategic plan.
During the meeting, the commission heard from speakers with experience in the issues. The speakers pointed out that cost is a major issue and that returning to school must be as easy as possible for adult students, who likely have jobs and family. For example, returning adults may need night classes to finish.
Also, if returning students get caught up in a lot of bureaucracy, they won’t return.
George McClellan, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW), described a one-time initiative there to encourage people to finish degrees.
Those who return and meet qualifications will receive 50 percent off tuition as long as they stay enrolled and continue toward a degree, he said. They must start this fall; have been out at least two years; have at least 60 credit hours; be an Indiana resident; and have left college with a 2.0 or higher GPA. They have attended IPFW at some point, but not all of those 60 credit hours necessarily have come from IPFW.
“We’re hoping the 50 percent [tuition discount] keeps them going,” McClellan said. The university found that 2,500 people were eligible, and they believe they can get at least 75 in the program.
The initiative will be revenue neutral for the college, he said. “We just want them to come back. … It’s our mission to serve the people of northeast Indiana.”
The Commission for Higher Education initiative will involve identifying the adult students, directly communicating with them and informing them about financial resources available.
The commission staff will conduct a survey and research and suggest a communications strategy. Institutions will have inter-campus agreements and adopt financial incentives by Oct. 1, 2015.
By Jan. 1, 2016, Hoosiers with some college but no degree and who previously attended an Indiana college will receive a direct communication, according to action taken by the commission.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Initiative aims to get working-age adults into the college classroom
TERRE HAUTE —
In Indiana, 737,000 adult Hoosiers have some college but no degree.
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