The new school year will include new guidelines for a popular college financial aid program aimed at helping more low-income students achieve a brighter future.
New requirements have been developed 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 who are eligible for free or reduced price meals at school are eligible to enroll. Scholars must graduate high school with a 2.5 or higher grade point average and stay away from drugs, alcohol and other criminal behavior. Scholarships, equivalent to public university tuition, then can be used to attend any public or private college or university in Indiana.
According to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE), more than 100,000 students are enrolled – 15,000 in postsecondary education with the remainder in middle and high school. However, while Indiana has granted more than $200 million in 21st Century Scholarships in the last five years, too many Scholars still struggle to earn a postsecondary degree or credential.
Ninety percent of Scholars graduate from high school – higher than the state average of 88 percent – but only 13 percent of Scholars earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years, compared with the state average of 23 percent. Similarly, just 31 percent of Scholars earn a degree after an additional one or two years on campus, compared with the state average of 45 percent.
Starting this school year, ICHE is implementing 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.”