IN College Applications On Decline as High School Grads Delay Higher Ed

In 2015, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, 63% of Indiana high school students went to college. In 2020, that number dropped to 53%. (Adobe Stock)

College enrollment numbers are down in Indiana as more high school graduates are choosing to take one or more gap years, pursue vocational certification or not attend college at all.

Lumina Foundation is a private group promoting post-high school education. Its goal is by 2025, 60% of Americans will have a high-quality post-high school credential.

Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning for the foundation, said brain drain -- college graduates who seek better jobs outside of Indiana shortly after obtaining a degree -- often affects decisions to remain in the state and seek advanced education.

"How do we get more Hoosiers to enroll in college as 18-year-olds, as a 24-year-old, as a 37-year-old, whatever it might be?" Brown asked. "We need more people to go get a credential. There's only about 40% of Indiana residents that have an associate's degree or higher, and then once they get those credentials, we need them to stay in Indiana."

Companies eyeing Indiana as a future business site want to know the state's education level to size up the talent pool for jobs. According to the foundation's "A Stronger Nation" report, almost 21% of people living in Indiana aged 25 to 64 hold a bachelor's degree, while almost 11% in the same age bracket have a master's degree or higher.

The report also stressed to reach state goals, Indiana will need to maintain and exceed the number of people who enroll in programs and earn all types of credentials beyond high school.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education reports almost 53% of the class of 2021 enrolled in college, down from 54% of the class of 2020. It means about 400 fewer high school graduates sought a college degree.

Brown suggested removing some barriers may boost college enrollment.

"We know cost is one of the biggest factors," Brown acknowledged. "So how can we find ways to make college more affordable? High school students can take college classes while they're getting their high school degree."

Brown recommended employers should offer their employees incentives to stay in Indiana. Another suggestion is the 21st Century Scholars, an early-college promise program designed to make college more affordable.

Earlier this year, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 167, requiring high school students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form to apply for grants, loans, or scholarships. The hope is students who are aware of their financial aid options will attend college.

Disclosure: Lumina Foundation for Education contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
By Terri Dee, Anchor/Producer
Monday July 24, 2023

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