Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

July 18, 2013

BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: New guidelines for 21st Century Scholarships

Too many struggle to earn college degree or credential.

New require-ments have been imple-mented for Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, which provides funding to low-income students to obtain additional education after high school. Seventh- and eighth-graders eligible for free or reduced price meals at school may enroll. Scholars must graduate high school with a 2.5 or higher GPA and stay away from drugs, alcohol and other criminal behavior to earn scholarships equivalent to public university tuition good at any public or private college or university in Indiana.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) says more than 100,000 students are enrolled — 15,000 in postsecondary education, 85,000 in middle and high school. Despite more than $200 million granted in 21st Century Scholarships in the last five years, too many Scholars struggle to earn a degree or credential.

Scholars graduate from high school at a rate higher than the state average (90 percent to 88 percent) but earn associate or bachelor degrees at lower rates than the state average.

So ICHE has implemented the Scholar Success Program — 12 steps Scholars must complete in high school to earn the scholarship.

“We feel a sense of urgency to improve the success rates of 21st Century Scholars and make a great state program even stronger,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. “We believe the new Scholar Success Program requirements will go a long way toward providing Scholars with added structure and support they need to stay on the path to college readiness and completion.”

High school freshman must write a graduation plan, complete a learning module on college finances and be involved with an extracurricular or community-service activity.

Sophomore requirements include completing a career interest assessment, visiting a workplace and utilizing the Indiana College Cost Estimator (www.indianacollegecosts.org).

High school juniors must make a college visit, take a college entrance exam (ACT or SAT) and search for additional scholarships. According to Chris Enstrom, director of outreach, too many Scholars do not realize they are still eligible for other financial aid including the federal Pell grant.

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