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Editorial columns

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Roadmap bill points students toward degree

‘Control’ is taxpayers’ right

The Journal Gazette’s March 12 editorial, “The costs of control,” criticized pending legislation that would provide every Indiana college student with a clear roadmap to earn a degree and more financial aid for staying on track to graduate.

What the editorial labeled “regulation and red tape” are actually common sense proposals designed to help more Hoosiers complete college with minimal debt.

At the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, we are driven by a sense of urgency to increase college completion and student success.

In a state that currently ranks 40th nationally in the number of adults with education beyond high school, we simply cannot afford to be satisfied with the status quo.

Increasing education attainment is a shared responsibility, one that must be owned jointly by our state, Indiana colleges and Hoosier students themselves.

That’s why our commission has asked lawmakers to increase funding for Indiana colleges and student financial aid in the next state budget.

It’s why we’re calling on our colleges to rein in unsustainable tuition increases and provide students with a semester-by-semester map of the courses they need to graduate.

And it’s why we’re asking Hoosier students to make smarter choices about how they finance and plan their path to a college degree.

Indiana has one of the most generous need-based financial aid systems in the country, spending more than $280 million on state grants and scholarships in the past year alone.

Yet, the hard truth is that far too many Hoosiers start college and never finish, and most do not graduate on time.

Graduating on time is especially important for students receiving financial aid because their tuition support runs out after four years.

Yet, only half of the students receiving state aid today are taking enough courses to finish in four years, and more than half never graduate at all.

These students are generally worse off. They have nothing to show for their time in school except debt.

To remedy this problem, proposed legislation would link financial aid to student progress, encouraging and rewarding full-time students who complete the minimum number of courses (30 credits per year) required to graduate on time.

The Journal Gazette’s anecdote about the part-time student who has been working toward a four-year degree for 10 years is an example of a larger challenge, but it misses the mark in this case since the proposed changes would not affect part-time students.

Yes, Indiana must be willing to invest more in higher education, but students aren’t well served by the promise of college access without completion, and taxpayers have a right to expect a better return on their investment.

Expecting anything less would be a disservice to students, their families and our state.

Teresa Lubbers (left) is the Indiana commissioner for higher education. Marilyn Moran Townsend is chair of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. They wrote this for The Journal Gazette.