Editor's note: This is the third installment in a five-part series exploring various aspects of paying for college.
Well before students start filling out college applications, there are a number of ways they can reduce the cost of their future degree.
The less time a student spends in college, the less it will cost. That may seem like an obvious point, but the majority of Indiana college students are taking longer than they should to complete their degrees, which only increases the length of time they are paying tuition and related expenses. Plus, the sooner students graduate, the sooner they can land a job and start on their path to financial security.
“Not only do you not have to pay tuition longer, but then you’re getting paid,” noted Todd Gambill, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at Indiana University Kokomo.
In many cases, students could have done more in high school to shorten the amount of time they spend in college – such as completing AP classes, taking dual credit courses or enrolling in more specialized programs offered through partnerships between area high schools and colleges that allow students to earn high school and college credits at the same time.
Dual credit options
“A form of scholarship comes in the way of dual credit courses,” Gambill said. “For a high school student to get AP credit or Advanced College Project credit, which we offer through a lot of schools, really that’s a kind of scholarship.”
Indiana University’s Advanced College Project allows high school seniors and juniors to take college-level general education classes at their high schools and earn college credit. Karen Shaw, director of financial aid at IUK, noted that the cost of an ACP class for area students is about $75, or even free for those who qualify for free/reduced school lunches. By comparison, a three-credit college class costs about $700.
Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region also partners with area high schools to allow students to begin earning college credit early. In addition to its dual credit courses, Ivy Tech offers an Integrated Technology Education Program and an Associate Accelerated Program that will launch in the Kokomo region this fall.
ITEP received a $3.27 million federal grant in 2014 to support the program that allows high school students, traditional college students and returning adult students to earn technical certificates in seven industrial technology fields, an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Technology and a 75-credit-hour Associate of Applied Science degree in Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology. Local industry partners are involved in ITEP to offer students internship and work-study placements.
Accelerated degree program
Ivy Tech Kokomo is still accepting applications for its first ASAP (Associate Accelerated Program) class. Some Ivy Tech campuses across the state already offer the program, which allows a select group of students to earn a 60-credit associate degree in liberal arts in 11 months.
“It’s designed for students who want to transfer. It gets those general core classes out of the way,” said Cody Mullins, an assistant professor of English at Ivy Tech who will be the faculty mentor for the Kokomo region’s ASAP when it launches in June. “It does save a ton of money.”
ASAP students attend classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The cost of enrolling in ASAP is $7,559, which is significantly less than the $28,000 Ivy Tech estimates is the average cost of two years of college. At other campuses, 70 percent of ASAP students successfully completed the program in one year, which is higher than the typical on-time completion rate for two-year degrees.
Shyann Evans, a senior at Taylor High School, was the first student to be accepted to Ivy Tech Kokomo’s ASAP class. She heard about the opportunity from her guidance counselor and met the program’s requirements for having at least a 2.5 GPA and good attendance record.
“[Heather Baltz, the THS guidance counselor,] knew I wanted to go to a four-year college and didn’t really know how I was going to pay for it,” Evans said.
Evans is the oldest child in her family and her mother did not attend college, so planning for her higher education has been a completely new experience for the family. Evans would like to go on to earn a degree in clinical psychology from a four-year university.
Parents of ASAP students must sign a pledge saying they will provide room and board for their student so he or she does not have to work while going through the demanding program. ASAP graduates also are eligible for special scholarships at some four-year institutions.
“The goal is to give a group of students who probably wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college the opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree,” Mullins said.
Space is limited to 24 students for Kokomo’s ASAP class, and the deadline to apply is March 15.
Taking summer classes is yet another way students can stay on track to complete their degrees on time. Ideally, students will take 15 credit hours each semester to earn a two-year degree in two years and a four-year degree in four years. If students end up taking fewer credits in the fall or spring semesters, summer classes offer a chance to get back on track.
Students cannot apply for additional financial aid specifically to cover a summer term, but they can budget the financial aid they receive for the year to cover summer classes too.
Since 2012, IUK has offered a 25-percent discount on summer tuition, though Gambill said the tuition rate for this summer has not been determined yet. In the first two summers with discounted tuition, IUK saw its summer enrollment increase by 18 percent, Gambill previously said.
Better high school preparation
While there are multiple partnerships between high schools and colleges that let students get a head start on their post-secondary education, a number of high school graduates still are unprepared for the demands of college.
The new set of academic standards Indiana adopted in 2014 promises to leave high school graduates college- and career-ready, and in the Class of 2012, 72 percent of graduates who went on to attend colleges or universities in Indiana were considered college ready, meaning they did not need to take any remedial courses.
The Commission for Higher Education’s most recent data, from the Class of 2012, shows that students who earned honors diplomas and came from families that did not qualify for free/reduced school lunches were most likely to be prepared for college.
Among area schools, the percentage of students needing at least one remedial course in college ranged from 16 percent of Western High School graduates up to 44 percent of Kokomo High School graduates.
Reducing the number of remedial courses students need in college will lower the amount of time and money they must invest in their degrees.