Indiana's only predominantly-Black higher education institution announced an effort to make college more accessible. Martin University will reduce tuition by 45 percent for undergraduate students and forgive some debt held by former students.
President Sean Huddleston said cutting the cost of enrollment and obtaining a degree is part of an effort to increase social wealth mobility for low income and communities of color.
Annual tuition will be reduced to an average of $8,800 for undergraduate students at the private, Indianapolis university. That’s less than tuition at Indiana’s four-year public university and college campuses. Graduate tuition rates will be reduced by 42 percent.
“We needed to take bold and intentional steps so that earning a college degree from our university is affordable, is accessible, it’s achievable, and that the degree earned can be readily applied to and result in our students gaining immediate access to family-sustaining careers that help build personal and generational wealth,” said Huddleston at an event to announce the initiative.
The average student debt for Indiana students who earned four-year degrees from public and private universities is $28,521, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
The Martin campaign, called Reset to Reemerge, comes as the cost of higher education and student debt is facing intense national debate. President Joe Biden in August said he would cancel some of the federal student debt for an estimated 43 million eligible borrowers.
Huddleston said university officials spent two years determining how they would adjust finances in order to support students. During that time, the university surveyed prospective students, alumni, employees, employers and community members about the top three barriers for accessing a college degree. Many respondents said higher education is unaffordable, takes too long to complete, and does not always lead to a rewarding and financially beneficial career.
Huddleston said the university reallocated its operational budget and combined departments in order to provide these funds. For example, the university consolidated three departments into one division to create the enrollment management division.
During the announcement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said this initiative will help community members who have struggled to find well-paying jobs because of their credentials.
“Over 60 percent of all jobs today require some form of post-secondary schooling,” said Hogsett. “That's just the truth. And that's in a city where 46 percent of all residents are a racial or ethnic minority. That's important. That's in a city where 52 percent of all residents are women.”
The university also announced an initiative to forgive up to $10,000 in debt for those who qualify, which officials said could benefit 200 to 300 students who didn’t finish their degree. Hogsett said a growing and diversifying city must include everyone.
“Our city supports this announcement because we too are committed to a prosperous Indianapolis for all,” said Hogsett. “Because no matter what your zipcode happens to be, no matter your parents’ income, or any other aspect of your background, you should expect access to the tools required to move up the ladder.”
Last August Martin University used over $600,000 in grants to clear past-due account balances for roughly two-thirds of its students.
The university’s over 200 students will also have access to the Martin WORKS program, which provides students with paid apprenticeships. The institution has piloted the program for two years.
Martin University, a private institution, was founded in 1977.
Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.