Obtaining a college degree is one of the most important and rewarding accomplishments one can achieve for the betterment of their future. However, obtaining a college degree is not always the simplest process and anyone who has filled out student financial aid forms or tried to transfer credits from one institution to another knows how stressful it can be.
Today’s employers require more employees than ever before to have additional degrees or certifications following the completion of high school. In other words, a college education is more important now than ever. Knowing that, we wanted to help make higher education a more appealing option for young Hoosiers by making it easier for them to accomplish.
One major move we made this session will make it considerably easier to transfer credits between different institutions of higher education (Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 182). Transferring credits can pose a problem not only from one institution to another but also from a regional campus to a main campus within the same institution. For example, a student taking a course at IU-Southeast may not be given credit for that course upon transferring to IU-Bloomington.
By creating a common course numbering system within all of our state colleges, we are working to make it easier for students who have completed courses at one college to receive credit at another. This will reduce the amount of time that it takes for some students to complete college as well as reduce their financial burden. In turn, this will help to improve college completion rates and ultimately serve to make Indiana’s goal of having 60 percent degree attainment by 2025 more manageable.
We knew that this goal would not be possible if we did not also address the cost of higher education. The Indiana Secondary Market for Education Loans Corporation is now permitted to become a direct lender of postsecondary education loans for the purpose of attending both Indiana and non-Indiana institutions (SEA 532).
College tuition in Indiana has nearly doubled over the past decade, causing major private lenders to withdraw from the student loan market. This has left students and their families with the burden of paying for this tuition increase. An Indiana-based student loan program may be able to improve financial literacy amongst college students and at the same time provide fixed rate loans to Indiana students who may not be able to otherwise fund their education.
If access to college in Indiana is restricted due to the increasing lack of affordability, then the state’s economic future is at risk. It is vital for all Hoosiers that we make the higher education process easier to navigate while also making it easier for students to fund this investment in their future. The changes we made this session will work to do just that.
By reducing the time and money necessary to complete a degree, we are encouraging students to stay in school. When more Hoosier students stay in school, Indiana will see an increased number of degree holders in the workforce. This will work to bridge the current skills gap and will be imperative to our state’s ability to compete internationally.
August 1 begins the application period for next year’s college enrollees. Many of this year’s freshman and returning students are already busy ordering textbooks, buying dorm room supplies and getting ready to head back for another semester. I hope that they will begin to see the immediate benefits of our work this year, and I look forward to what we can continue to do in the future. We are always looking for ways to improve higher education in the Hoosier state because our students’ success is everyone’s success!