Indiana's early college promise program continues to demonstrate its power in closing educational equity gaps, according to a study released Monday by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
The fourth annual College Equity report found multiple groups – particularly students of color, low-income students, men and rural residents – are less likely than their peers to be ready for and graduate from college.
The report considered data by race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and geography – rural and non-rural students.
Educational equity is the idea that circumstances or obstacles shouldn't dictate who has an opportunity to succeed, said Teresa Lubbers, the commissioner for higher education.
“We must shine a light on the disparities that exist so that we can create sound and data-driven policies to help close the gaps that are holding too many Hoosiers and Indiana back,” Lubbers said in a statement.
The state's population has become more racially and socioeconomically diverse in the last decade, the report found. Between 2010 and 2019, the percentage of non-white high school graduates increased to 29% from 20%, and the low-income population increased to 38% from 31%.
The state's college-going rate has declined to 59% in 2019 from 65% in 2015, but the decrease has affected demographics at different rates. Rates were 49% for Hispanic and Latino students and 51% for Black students, a group that has experienced the biggest decline – 13 percentage points – over the past five years.
About 63% of high schoolers earn college credit through dual credit courses or Advanced Placement exams, the study said, noting these students are more likely to complete college and more likely to graduate early.
However, the report said, there are wide gaps in who earns such credits. White (69%) and Asian (72%) students are more likely to do so than Black (40%) and Hispanic (52%) students, the study found.
Disparities also exist in another indicator of college success – high school diploma type. The report found 40% of white students earn an Academic Honors diploma while only 17% of Black students and 26% of Hispanic students earn Indiana's most rigorous high school credential.
The report highlighted 21st Century Scholars' success in narrowing gaps. This early college promise program provides up to four years of college tuition for income-eligible students who complete certain requirements in high school and college.
Data show 88% of 21st Century Scholars go to college, compared to 35% of low-income and 64% of higher-income students. About 82% of Scholars earn early college credits compared to 44% of low-income students not in the program and 69% of higher-income non-Scholars.
“There is virtually no gap in college-going rates by race and ethnicity for students in the program,” the report states. “Scholars are also more likely than their low-income peers to go to college and graduate.”
Closing equity gaps is important to the state's goal that at least 60% of Hoosiers have a quality credential beyond high school by 2025, Lubbers said. The state's educational attainment rate now stands at about 48%.
The report's recommendations addressed K-12 schools' support for students pursuing an Academic Honors diploma; financial aid awareness for Black and Hispanic students; and access to dual-credit opportunities, among other suggestions.
“In 2021,” Lubbers said, “gaps are closing, but not quickly enough.”
At a glance
The 2021 Indiana College Equity Report found only 48% of all students met three benchmarks of college success – no remediation, completing all coursework and persisting to the second year.
Success varied by demographic:
• 27% of Black students met benchmarks
• 40% of Hispanic/Latino students met benchmarks
• 52% of white students met benchmarks
• 29% of low-income students who weren't 21st Century Scholars met benchmarks
• 43% of 21st Century Scholars met benchmarks