Indy Mayor Announces Program To Boost Post-Secondary Degrees In Marion County

May 29, 2018

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the program at Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center. (Photo by Sarah Panfil/WFYI)

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced plans Tuesday to fund $2 million in new scholarship programs for low-income residents. It’s part of a broad effort to address gaps in the labor market, and to help more residents attain post-secondary credentials.

In his State of the City address last year, Hogsett announced the creation of a task force that would work to improve college access for low-income residents.

Since then, the project's scope expanded to include aid for adults with unfinished post-secondary credentials. The team says it discovered helping high school graduates would only put a dent in the growing needs of the labor market.

The result is a program called Indy Achieves, and it works in three parts.

The first part is about access – the city will fund college scholarships for qualifying low-income high school graduates.

Additional money will be made available for The Indiana Higher Education Award and 21st Century Scholars, two existing state programs.

The second part is about completion – new grant money will help adults who never finished getting their degree, and students on the verge of dropping out. The program is limited to Marion County residents going to either IUPUI or the local Ivy Tech Community College.

Amy Conrad Warner works on community engagement at IUPUI, and says many students need just a little help to get to the finish line.

“These are individuals that have quite often had to juggle jobs, had to juggle life, in order to be able to complete a degree," Warner says. "And when they get that close, we really want them to be in the workforce as quickly as possible.”

Indy Achieves will get information on these students, then decide which could get support (city officials say the decision would likely be based on what the students are studying and how much time they have left). Those students would then get an email, telling them they were going to be kicked out for failing to pay their bill, but Indy Achieves is willing to help.

The task force says with the level of funding requested, about 1,600 students would be effected by this part of the program.

The third part is about support – the program will partner with area agencies to help students through mentorship, and track their progress.

Mayor Hogsett says more than 60 percent of the jobs in Indiana require a post-secondary credential or degree, but only 42 percent of residents have one.

“We want to tell every adult in Marion County without a degree or a credential, ‘Indy Achieves is for you as well,’” Hogsett says.

City officials say their goal is to raise that figure from 42 percent to 65 percent by the year 2027.

The plan also includes a goal to eliminate attainment gaps for African-American and Hispanic residents.

Funding for the program needs to be approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council. If approved, it's expected to start in Fall 2019.

The task force projects the new grants and scholarships will impact thousands of people in its first five years. Their hope is that local businesses and philanthropists will invest in the program, making that figure higher, but say they haven't yet contacted outside groups to guage their interest.