Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

State News

May 1, 2014

College degrees up, but Indiana still lags behind

INDIANAPOLIS – The percentage of Hoosiers with a college diploma has gone up over the last five years, but Indiana still remains among the least-degreed states in the nation.

According to a degree-tracking study recently released, just over 34 percent of Indiana’s 3.4 million working-age adults hold a two- or four-year college degree – significantly below the national average of more than 39 percent.

The good news, according to report authors, is that Indiana – along with other states – is undergoing a cultural shift that places increased value on a college degree.

The bad news: The state has a long way to go toward increasing the number of at-risk students – including those first in their family to go to college – who complete a degree program before dropping out.

“There is a dramatic increase in the number of Americans who are saying that success, in some form of post-secondary education, has become essential, not just to individuals, but to the nation,” said DeWayne Matthews, vice-president of strategy development for the Lumina Foundation, which issued the report.

The Lumina report, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education,” is the organization’s fifth annual survey to show national and state-by-state figures on college attainment.

Thirty-eight states, including Indiana, have signed on to Lumina’s big goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with post-secondary degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

Progress is slow: While Indiana has increased its college grads every year since 2008, it remains in the bottom 10 states for college attainment.

Massachusetts has the highest percent of degreed citizens, at just over 50 percent. West Virginia ranks at the bottom, with just shy of 28 percent.

Indiana has been aggressive in its efforts to up its numbers. Among other initiatives, the General Assembly has tied a portion of state funding for public colleges and universities to those institutions’ graduation rates. That performance-based funding mechanism came after studies showed the number of Indiana students admitted to college was going up, but graduation rates weren’t keeping pace.

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