Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

May 6, 2014

Keeping students in college a community effort

On the sprawling urban campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Zebulun Davenport has one of the more difficult jobs. A vice chancellor, he’s tasked with putting together all the pieces needed to keep a diverse body of students in school long enough to graduate.

Based on history, most won’t. Less than 15 percent of IUPUI’s undergraduates earn a degree in four years; less than 40 percent will get one in six.

All of Indiana’s public colleges and universities have lower-than-desired graduation rates, though IUPUI faces some special challenges.

Many of its students are working to support themselves or family while attending college. And about 45 percent of IUPUI students fall in the category of “first generation” – the children of parents who never went to college or never finished.

It’s that first-generation demographic that may hold the key to Indiana’s future. A recent report by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation found Indiana was in the bottom tier of states whose residents hold college degrees.

That puts us at a distinct disadvantage for attracting the high-skill, high-wage jobs needed to boost the state’s per capita income, which has been stagnant for a decade.

At IUPUI, and on other campuses around the state, university administrators like Davenport are accelerating their efforts to be more intentional about retaining and graduating students.

It’s been forced: The state Legislature has shifted more higher education dollars into performance-based funding, rewarding universities not just for getting students in the door but getting them out, degree in hand.

Davenport is rightfully pleased by what he calls a cultural change on university campuses, as they move away from the disengaged model that said students were on their own to make it or break it.

“Struggle can build character,” Davenport told me. “But it takes a while before that character is built. And sometimes, it’s too late. We have too many students who look back and say, ‘I just couldn’t make it.’ “

Text Only
Columns
  • Why government openness matters Failing to share information makes us weaker. It enfeebles congressional oversight, which is a cornerstone of representative democracy and which, when aggressively carried out by fully informed legislators, can strengthen policy-making.One of the fun

    August 21, 2014

  • Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A. The tragic killing of college-bound teenager Michael Brown has raised questions about the frequency with which police kill unarmed black men in America. The answer, unfortunately, is far too often.Just three months ago, on a warm April afternoon, a w

    August 21, 2014

  • Walking makes a comeback Just a few years ago, the idea that we could have a national conversation about walking might have seemed unlikely. After all, we’ve been walking forever. What’s there to talk about? As it turns out, plenty. As a number of groups cite a range of reas

    August 21, 2014

  • nei-gb082014-linda kennett column pic A collecting bonus? It's in the cards Remember the packs of sports trading cards from the 1970s and 80s? I recently stumbled across several boxes of them that I thought my son had taken when he bought his first home 15 years ago. But there they were, still in the closet and mixed among t

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb082014-homemakers column file photo Summer has flown by It seems summer is nearly gone. The State Fair is over, the Power of the Past is gone for another year, and the children are back in school. It may be time to think about getting involved in making and donating some items for Riley Hospital. We alw

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pat Smith: Goofy golf raises breast cancer awareness Last week I stopped in to ask Susan Doerflinger Burkhart to please interpret a letter I received from an insurance company I had two or more years ago. As usual, she was able to ease my mind. While there she asked if I was going to play in the all-fe

    August 20, 2014

  • Craft brewers, vintners bring spirits to State Fair Brad Hawkins felt right at home hawking his beer at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week.When Hawkins opened his Salt Creek Brewery in a converted filling station in tiny Needmore three years ago, some tee-totaling neighbors protested he was putti

    August 19, 2014

  • Back to the classroom These days, it seems like the summers are going by even faster than they did when I was a student! Just yesterday, the temperatures were beginning to warm up and children were hanging up their backpacks. Now, many of them are already back in the clas

    August 19, 2014

  • Our children and their children Let’s ponder “our children” and “their children.”First, Gov. Mike Pence made a wise call this past week when he ordered the Department of Child Services to begin reimbursing families who had adopted special needs children.A class action lawsuit filed

    August 19, 2014

  • Remember the joy Williams gave Ball State’s Wes Gehring, the author of dozens of books on Hollywood stars, says the apparent suicide of Robin Williams will not tarnish the comedian’s legendary achievements.Williams was found dead Monday in his California home. He was 63.“As the li

    August 16, 2014