INDIANAPOLIS — Recent numbers released from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education show a large decrease in high school students going to college directly after high school.
According to the report, 53 percent of Indiana high school graduates in the class of 2020 pursued education beyond high school, a sharp decline from the rate seen in years prior.
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According to the commission, the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the large decrease, but such a sharp decrease is still cause for concern.
“Indiana’s sharp one-year college-going decline is alarming, and we have to treat it as such. We know individual lives and the state’s economy depend on and thrive with an educated society,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery said.
The rate drop in Indiana equates to about 4,000 fewer high school graduates going to college than the year before. The drop was felt most notably in Indiana's public colleges and universities.
Lowery said it will take everyone looking outside the traditional box of high education to curb the decline.
"We must look beyond the traditional approaches to education for both youth and adult learners. This demands more intentional partnerships with our higher education institutions and employers, as well as strengthened policies and programming aligned to student success,” Lowery said. “We have a solid foundation upon which to continue building, but it will take time and focused effort to tackle these challenges.”
While the overall number of graduates entering college dropped, the commission noted signs of seeing potential in returning to numbers to where they were just a handful of years ago.
One of the most notable factors in Indiana high school grads going to college is their status as a 21st Century scholar. The Scholars program is Indiana’s early college promise program, founded in 1990, which allows income-eligible students to enroll in seventh or eighth grade and earn up to four years of college tuition in Indiana for free.
Statistics show that 81 percent of high school graduates that are 21st Century Scholars end up going to college. Similar trends are found in students who earn dual credit and/or AP credit while in high school. Those students go to college 62 percent of the time.
“Students who utilize these opportunities while in high school – dual credit or the Academic Honors diploma – are far more likely than their peers who aren’t taking advantage to go to college and to be successful," Lowery said. "These offerings hold promise and, along with the 21st Century Scholars program, provide a proven pathway for student success in college."