It has always been a priority for the General Assembly to provide opportunities for all Hoosiers to attend college if they choose to do so. In 2013, I authored legislation to better our state’s higher education financial aid programs to make a college degree more obtainable.
Unfortunately, our state falls behind others when it comes to on-time college completion. Only 28 percent of our students graduate on-time at our four-year universities. In addition, the average cost of a four-year degree in Indiana is $20,000 more than the national average. This means that not only are some students not graduating, but they are doing so with large amounts of debt.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education aims to change this. Their goal is to have four-year college degree attainment up to 60 percent by 2025. Today, that statistic is 33 percent. That is where House Enrolled Act 1348 comes in. When crafting this bill, I worked with public, private and online college representatives from around the state to develop a plan to incentivize students to graduate on time and reward those with high scholastic standing. The legislation encourages students to maintain a four year graduation pace by basing financial assistance on classes completed rather than classes registered for. It also extends that assistance into the summer.
I recently received a letter from Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, detailing the success of the new law so far. Last year, of the three-quarters of students who received financial aid and expected to graduate in four years, only half were taking enough credits to do so. Students who were on track to go into a fifth year said they would take on more debt or dropout altogether. These are troubling statistics, which is why the new law provides students with tools to guide them down the path towards completing their degree in four years.
Upon the passage of these new standards, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education partnered with high school and college counselors to make sure students were informed of the changes. Many institutions also monitored each student’s data and worked with them individually to ensure on-time completion of their degree.
I am pleased to report that the early results show the changes are working. More students are taking the necessary amount of classes to graduate on-time, while also reducing the amount of debt they accrue. A more detailed report will be available towards the end of this year, but I am encouraged to see Indiana taking a step in the right direction. Education is, and will continue to be, a top priority for me. If you have questions regarding financial aid, please visit www.in.gov/sfa or call my office at 317-232-9850.
Rep. Dermody represents portions of LaPorte and Starke counties.