Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said in a speech Wednesday night that it is imperative that Hoosiers are better educated and prepared for the workforce.
“Indiana is in the midst of economic transformation that demands more highly educated and skilled citizens,” Lubbers said. “The old model simply won’t produce enough highly educated graduates with the higher level skills and education that are needed.”
During her State of the Higher Education address Lubbers applauded universities and colleges for helping students graduate on time.
Two years ago, about 90 percent of degree programs at Indiana’s public colleges exceeded the traditional standard of 120 credit hours for a four year degree and 60 credits for a two-year degree. That meant Hoosiers took longer to graduate and accumulated more college debt.
“Today, the obstacle is well on its way to being eliminated with nearly 90 percent of degree programs meeting the accepted standard,” after legislation to end so-called credit creep passed two years ago, Lubbers said.
The changes are projected to save students and taxpayers more than $35 million a year.
As an “ongoing effort” to address financial challenges, Lubbers said “we are redesigning the state’s work study program.
The new program, “EARN Indiana”, helps students with financial needs and offers career-related experiences.
“We are laser-focused on increasing on-time graduation,” Lubbers said, “But it’s not enough for students to complete college if they lack relevant workplace experience that prepares them for success in their chosen career path.”
Motivation to “protect the state’s investment” called for a change in the 21st Century Scholars requirements, he said.
Century 21st scholars must graduate high school with a 2.5 GPA and complete a Scholar Success Programs. The latter is a new program that helps students prepare for college.
In an effort to guarantee 21st Century Scholar students avoid loan debt, they must complete new credit requirements.
Lubbers said the fastest growing occupations and industries are related to the highest levels of post-secondary education.
“It is indisputable that college graduates have lower unemployment, higher lifetime earnings, higher marriage rates, better health, and greater civic involvement,” Lubbers said.
“Today, hard work and credentials are required for the 21st Century jobs that propel individual families up the economic ladder,” Lubbers said.
Paige Clark is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.