TERRE HAUTE —
Of all of the educational initiatives paraded before Indiana residents in recent years — some ideas worthy, others flops — none seems more timely or more on point than one approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education last week.
As our Sue Loughlin reported in Friday’s newspaper, the program is called Return and Complete — which is also a shorthand description of what it entails: Citizens who have started but not completed their college degrees, return to classes and complete their degrees. The result is that those citizens can gain higher earning potentials and see their career opportunities widen. Plus, those who can return to finish their degrees can simply feel a greater sense of accomplishment, of reaching a goal, of beating the odds. That unquantifiable spirit is a powerful incentive.
In approving that program when it met at Indiana State University for its monthly meeting, the commission opened the door, for at least a limited time, for the three-fourths of a million persons in Indiana who have done some work toward a degree but who still need to finish.
For some reason — or combination of reasons — those persons quit their pursuit of degrees. It could have been lack of funds, the wrong major, lack of readiness, disillusionment about the worth of a degree, family problems or complications from balancing college with work. Or more than one of the above.
Whatever the cause, many of those people would appreciate a do-over. Many are now more motivated, more aware of the value of the four-year degree, not only in dollars but in the sense of becoming employed at a level matching their brain power.
To its credit, Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, a burgeoning branch campus of IUPUI, is ahead of the game. As Loughlin reported, those who return to classes and meet requirements can get half off on tuition while they stay in school and make progress toward a degree.
Other campuses — including the Wabash Valley’s two state institutions, ISU and Ivy Tech — would do well to emulate IPFW’s initiative and offer discounted tuition and fees to entice these students back to their classes.
It is exactly the kind of community outreach that would enhance any university’s résumé.
Much has been made in recent months about the skills gap — that margin between the education of Indiana’s work force and the needs of employers in an increasingly technical and specialized world of work.
This idea also offers a way to cut that gap by supplying thousands more Hoosiers with four-year degrees and the knowledge and skill sets that go with them.
By Oct. 1, 2015, Indiana’s colleges and universities are to have worked agreements among each other on such issues of transfer of credits and to develop financial incentives.
Then, by the beginning of January 2016, lapsed students who meet the program’s criteria will be contacted.
And not long after that, we hope, students can begin to return … and then to complete.