Big Grant to Help Launch 'College Coach' Program

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The Indiana Commission for Higher Education says a $2.4 million USA Funds Grant will support a state initiative designed to increase graduation rates. The program will connect nearly 2,500 college freshmen with success coaches to help with long-term academic planning.

August 11, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Nearly 2,500 college freshmen at Indiana State University, IUPUI and Ivy Tech Community College will be connected with a trained "College Success Coach" this fall through a new state initiative designed to increase graduation rates by up to 15 percent for students enrolled in the state's 21st Century Scholars program. Supported by a $2.4 million grant from USA Funds to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the coaching initiative is part of a larger redesign of Indiana's early-promise scholarship program that emphasizes clearer expectations for students and proactive support at all levels.

"For more than two decades, Indiana's 21st Century Scholars program has made it possible for thousands of Hoosiers to afford a college education," said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. "However, too many Scholars never make it to graduation day—leaving them with the dashed dreams and diminished career opportunities that come with some college but no degree.

"We firmly believe that all Scholars can be successful, and a growing body of research indicates that an effective college coach can empower students to overcome the barriers that all too often prevent them from completing college and reaching their full potential."

College Coaching 101

The hallmark of college coaching is a one-on-one relationship that helps students to decide what they want out of college and then map out a plan to make it happen. During regular meetings, coaches encourage students to identify obstacles, create contingency plans, connect with on-campus resources and link their short-term actions to their long-term goals. Scholars will learn to balance work, personal commitments and financial challenges with a demanding academic load while developing time management and problem-solving skills that are critical to long-term success in college, their career path and in life.

Only about 15 percent of 21st Century Scholars earn a two- or four-year degree on time, a graduation rate slightly above that of all low-income Hoosier students (9 percent) but below that of the state’s full-time college population overall (23 percent). A recent report by the American Educational Research Association confirmed that the coaching model developed by InsideTrack—the company selected to deliver Indiana’s coaching initiative—can increase on-time graduation rates by as much as 15 percent.

Program Rollout & Sustainability

"USA Funds' financial support of this program is part of a broader partnership with our home state to provide Indiana students with fulfilling educational, career and life experiences," said Carol D'Amico, USA Funds Executive Vice President, National Engagement and Philanthropy. "Our collaboration with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and InsideTrack will lead to improved college success rates among 21st Century Scholars and provide a student success model that other Indiana colleges and universities and other states can adopt."

Through its service agreement with the state, InsideTrack has guaranteed a minimum increase in the percentage of Scholars completing their first year of college that is designed to make the service self-sustaining after the first year. InsideTrack also projects a 10-15 percent increase in the college completion rates of Scholars served by the program. Based on first-year performance, Indiana State University, IUPUI and Ivy Tech Community College have agreed to sustain the service for a second year using the additional tuition revenue and state funding that would result from the anticipated improvement in student retention.

Indiana State University has been piloting the coaching service through InsideTrack over the past year with a representative sample of its freshmen students. Encouraged by the initial results, ISU will now be able to expand the service to include its entire entering class of 21st Century Scholars this fall.

"InsideTrack worked with us to design a true impact study for which we can actually measure the effect of an intervention, coaching, and by extension, return on investment. This is rare in higher education, and I am hopeful this will also be true for the statewide 21st Century Scholars project," said Dan Bradley, President of Indiana State University.

21st Century Scholars Program: Moving from Access to Success

The new college coaching initiative is the latest step in a fundamental redesign of the 21st Century Scholars program led by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education since the agency assumed responsibility for the program two years ago.

With support from the Indiana General Assembly, the early-promise scholarship now reflects a renewed emphasis on improving student preparation and college completion with changes that include:

• Improving college-readiness by requiring 21st Century Scholars to graduate high school with a 2.5 GPA and complete a Scholar Success Program that helps them prepare for the rigors of college;

• Keeping Scholars on track to graduate from college on time through new on-time credit completion requirements that expect students to earn at least 30 credits per academic year; and

• Providing more consistent and coordinated support for 21st Century Scholars from the time they enroll in the program to the day they graduate from college through expanded partnerships with local schools, colleges and community partners.

Established in 1990, Indiana's 21st Century Scholars program is a need-based, early-promise scholarship program that provides students the opportunity to earn up to a four years of paid tuition at an Indiana college. Learn more at

About the Indiana Commission for Higher Education

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is a 14-member public body created in 1971 to define the missions of Indiana's colleges and universities, plan and coordinate the state's postsecondary education system, and ensure that Indiana's higher education system is aligned to meet the needs of students and the state. Learn more at

About USA Funds

Headquartered in Indianapolis, USA Funds is a nonprofit corporation that works to build a more purposeful path for America’s students to and through college and on to rewarding careers and successful lives. USA Funds pursues its nonprofit mission through philanthropic activities and partnerships, policy research, and programs and services that enhance preparation for, access to and success in higher education. Learn more at

About InsideTrack

Society thrives when students succeed. Since 2001, InsideTrack has used a proven combination of coaching, analytics, consulting and technology to unlock potential in millions of students and the institutions they attend. We invite you to join the leading colleges, universities, foundations and others working with us to enhance the transformative power of higher education. Please visit us at and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack.

College Success Coaching: Partner Testimonials

"This past year we partnered with InsideTrack on a coaching project with 1,000 of our freshmen. The coaches are extraordinarily good at building relationships with students, helping them to set goals, and to coach them through the inevitable challenges that arise. Seeing the project scale for 21st Century Scholars across the state strikes me as one with great potential for improving retention and completion rates for this critical constituency to Indiana's future."

Josh Powers, Associate Vice President for Student Success, Indiana State University

"At IUPUI, we focus