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January 29, 2014

TERESA LUBBERS: State must increase urgency to raise education attainment

State must increase urgency to raise education attainment.

Indiana’s second annual State of Higher Education Address this month offered an opportunity to highlight our recent progress but also to make a compelling case to move with an even greater sense of urgency and purpose. Evidence of Indiana’s growing momentum to establish one of the nation’s best and most student-focused higher education systems is everywhere.

We streamlined college credit requirements to help more students graduate on time. Prior to the passage of legislation two years ago, nearly 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. The result was students taking longer to graduate and often ending up with more college debt. Today, this obstacle has nearly been eliminated with more than 90 percent of degree programs meeting the accepted standard — a complete reversal. This single, common-sense change is estimated to save students and taxpayers more than $35 million a year.

Given that one-third of students graduate from a different college than where they started, no effort has been more important than our work to simplify the transfer of college credit. Recent legislation created a 30 credit-hour general education core and streamlined transfer agreements between colleges, student-friendly policies that save Hoosiers time and money and reduce the likelihood that students will be required to retake the same course at another college.

We recognize that far too many students experience college as a maze rather than a pathway to success. In response, Gov. Pence joined the Commission in supporting legislation that ensures every Hoosier student has a clear, step-by-step, degree map that guides their way to graduation, and Indiana lawmakers established new credit completion requirements and financial aid incentives that encourage students to earn good grades and stay on track to graduate.

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