Tribune-Star Editorial graphic

21st Century Scholars delivers on its higher education mission

The 30th anniversary of a highly successful educational program brought Indiana State University into the public spotlight this week.

The 21st Century Scholars program in its three decades has carried the mission of providing access to college for low-income Hoosiers by engaging them during middle school and awarding scholarships for good grades and good behavior in high school. Students in the program get four years of paid college tuition and fees as long they continue to get good grades and stay out of trouble.

ISU has long embraced the program and made a significant commitment to it. What’s more, the program was created in 1990, during the administration of Gov. Evan Bayh, who was born in Vigo County and has deep roots here. Bayh’s support of the program was crucial for its passage in the Legislature.

Statistics from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education show that in 2018 ISU had the heaviest concentration of 21st Century Scholars among the state’s largest four-year campuses. Thirty-one percent of ISU’s in-state undergraduate students were in the program, topping numbers from Ball State, IUPUI, Indiana University-Bloomington, and Purdue University in West Lafayette.

A significant number — 1,832 students — of ISU’s 2018 student body were 21st Century Scholars that year.

This year, ISU officials report there are 1,347 students in the program.

The program’s anniversary was celebrated on Tuesday in both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly. ISU President Deborah Curtis attended the observance and was accompanied by ISU grads who were 21st Century Scholars. Indiana higher education officials praised the university for its longtime commitment to the program and for making it part of its educational mission.

It was encouraging to see such a program that changes lives for the better being celebrated for its success and longevity.

At a time when so much of what government does is viewed unfairly through a negative lens, 21st Century Scholars can be appropriately touted as an effective program that delivers a vital public service.

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