College Enrollment For Hoosier High Schoolers Is Still Going Down. It Will Likely Get Worse

Apr 27, 2021

Indiana University Bloomington is one of several campuses that saw a decrease in enrollment among state high school graduates according to the Commission for Higher Education's 2021 College Readiness Report.
Credit (FILE PHOTO: Peter Balonon-Rosen/IPB News)

Fewer high school graduates in Indiana are enrolling in college according to a recent report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

The commission says college-going rates in Indiana are at their lowest point in recent history at just 59 percent – that's a drop of 6 percentage points over the past five years. The report's data comes from 2019, so state and school officials say they expect a further decline in next year's report as data begins to reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

College-going rates are even lower specifically among Black, Hispanic and Latino, and low-income high school graduates. 

Khala Granville, Indiana University-Bloomington associate director of admissions, said disproportionate rates of discipline, and a lack of cultural competence are key problems that contribute to students' interest and access to higher education.

"That doesn't help if we're trying to create a college going culture, or even a workforce ready culture," she said. 

Granville said other factors come into play too, from a student's personal or familial economic demands to how they value higher education as a pathway to get into a high paying job.

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Meanwhile, Ivy Tech Community College was among a handful of public institutions that saw an enrollment increase in the commission's report. 

Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said colleges and universities need to do a better job of meeting the needs of students with different personal or socioeconomic backgrounds, and helping students prepare for higher education while still in high school. 

"They still have to do the learning, but we should do everything that makes that process easier for them – take barriers out of their way so that they can succeed," she said.

The commission's report also highlights what it calls a "concerning" increase in graduation waivers. Students receive a waiver if they cannot complete graduation requirements, like assessments. Nearly 1-in-8 students received a waiver in 2019, and less than 30 percent of waiver recipients went on to enroll in college. 

In a statement, the commission said the graduation assessment used for the class of 2019 may have contributed to an increase in waivers, but still said the spike is cause for further investigation as the state implements graduation pathways.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.