News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 17, 2014

Group's efforts target Hoosier education

Early, data-driven outreach, spreading awareness on docket to boost higher-ed rates

TERRE HAUTE — Members of the Vigo County College Success Coalition met Friday to brainstorm about ways to encourage and better prepare students for post-secondary education.

The group, which met at Harrison College, includes all five colleges, Vigo County School Corp., St. Patrick’s School and other community stakeholders.

One of the most important aspects of the coalition is the communication that takes place about ongoing outreach efforts, said Rachel Leslie, the coalition’s marketing coordinator. Also, those attending learn about needs that are not being addressed.

In a visit to Terre Haute in September, Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education, told the coalition that Indiana must develop more of a college-going culture. Jobs of the 21st Century require education and training beyond high school, she said.

Only one-third of Hoosier adults have more than a high school diploma. Indiana has set a goal of increasing the proportion of Hoosiers with a college credential.

This includes one-year workforce certificates, two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees, to 60 percent of the state’s population by 2025.

During discussion Friday, Richard Toomey, ISU’s associate vice president for enrollment management, talked about some “quick wins,” or things the coalition could accomplish yet this semester.

He suggested having an internal speakers bureau and a week-long campaign this spring in which coalition speakers would visit middle schools to talk about how to prepare for college.

ISU has focused on some early outreach initiatives that emphasize financial planning for college, he said.

He also suggested an effort, in conjunction with hospitals, to provide information to parents of newborns about the importance of saving for college — maybe even giving them piggy banks.

Joshua Powers, ISU associate vice president for student success, provided some demographic data on Terre Haute/Vigo County by zip code.

In the 47805 zip code area, which includes northern Vigo County, the 2011 median household income was $52,301 and the 2011 unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.

In the 47807 zip code area, which includes the downtown area, the median 2011 household income was $19,749, with a 13.5 percent unemployment rate.

In terms of percentages living below poverty, in the 47807 zip code area, 49.4 percent were living below poverty; in the 47805 zip code, just 9.4 percent lived below the poverty line, Powers said.

As a result of Friday’s meeting, the coalition plans to compile what each of its organizations is doing in terms of camps and outreach events, Leslie said. Once compiled, school counselors could present that information to parents and students.

Leslie also updated the 19 people attending about an initiative to install six large signs at key entry/exit points into the community. The effort is in cooperation with the city, county and Indiana Department of Transportation, and large blue signs would say, “College Success County.” At the bottom, the signs would include the website, learnmoreindiana.org.

The signs are “an opportunity to market the community in a different way,” Leslie said. This spring, there will be an event to publicly unveil the signs, she said.

The coalition also raised $505 dollars to donate to  United Day for United Way.

Many organizations represented were already participating in United Way events, “but we thought it would be neat to give a gift to the United Way on behalf of the coalition to show our interest and support as a collective unit,” Leslie said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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