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New law: State aims to bring students back to college

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By Jess Seabolt

State officials are seeking to get degrees in the hands of more Hoosiers – in part by encouraging those who quit college to return.

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The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is launching a project called Return and Complete, which requires the state’s public colleges and universities to reach out to adults who have some college experience but no degree. The General Assembly authorized the program in the budget approved this spring.

Stephanie Wilson, the commission’s communications director, said “you’d be surprised” at the number of Hoosier adults who could be impacted by the project.

Nearly 737,000 Hoosiers have some college credit but have not finished a degree Urging more of those students to back to school will help the commission move toward a larger goal of having 50 percent of adults with some sort of degree by 2025.

Return and Complete calls for colleges to report data about the issue to the commission, which will examine what policies are already in place for adult Hoosiers to come back to college and what kind of obstacles, including finances, prevented them from completing their degree.

The new state law also allows colleges to offer financial aid or discounts to Return and Complete students.

Pamela Horne, the associate vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions at Purdue University, said the institution is already coming up with strategies to get the word out.

“Our tentative plan is to reach out to non-completes in our geographic area, ensuring these adults know about Span Plan and our Veterans Success Center and provide links to financial aid information, re-entry info, and transfer pathways and admission criteria,” Horne said.

Purdue’s Span Plan – Span Ault Student Services – is a program that provides support services to adult, non-traditional undergraduate students. The university defines an adult non-traditional student as someone who took a two-year break from school, is married or in a domestic partnership, is a parent or is active duty or a U.S. military veteran.

Wilson said that starting November 2016, and every year after, colleges must report annually the number of Return and Complete Hoosiers they reached out to as well as the number of those who came back and earned a degree.

The tentative goal is for 200,000 of Hoosier adults to get degrees under the program by 2020.

Wilson said that the project is “helping these adults figure out how to even get started.”

Reporter Andi TenBarge contributed to this report. Jess Seabolt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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