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Hoosier Students Not Enrolling for Free Tuition

USI Aug 22 move in day1-1.jpg
Tim Jagielo
Students move into a residence hall of the University of Southern Indiana in August. The 21st Century Scholars program can offer up to free tuition for qualifying students at public universities.

21st Century Scholars assists qualified students with college preparation and financial assistance; only half of these students apply

The 21st Century Scholars Program is funded by the state of Indiana with the goal of getting lower-income students into college or technical training. Public institutions can be free to attend.

But according to Chris Lowery of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, only half of the 40-percent overall who quality, pursue this program.

“My view, then, is about half of the kids are getting left behind,” he said. “Because for various reasons they don't get enrolled.”

These can include not being aware of the program, or that higher education isn’t a family priority because of other stressors.

“We got to do a much better job of giving the information but also keeping the pressure on keeping costs low, having quality programs, having reasons, you know, that students in Indiana should want to go to our post secondary institutions.”

Lowery said there are repercussions to not getting post-high school education.

“In a nutshell, for students who qualify, they will have much, much better opportunities to have good and promising jobs, paying higher wages throughout their lives, the ability to translate that into benefits for themselves and their loved ones over the years,” Lowey said. “For the state, it gives us a more qualified workforce.”

This means making Indiana more competitive for attracting industry, and not to mention — higher income individuals pay more taxes.

Lowery also said people with higher education live 12 years longer on average than those who don’t graduate high school.

Students can ask their guidance counselor or go to learnmoreindiana.org to learn more. Enrollment for qualifying families begins during 7th and 8th grade.