Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery says it will take an aggressive, “all hands on deck” approach for the state to reverse a steep decline in the number of Hoosier high school graduates attending college. A recent report indicates just 53% of high school grads went on to further education in 2020, a drop of 12 points from five years earlier. Lowery hopes the sobering numbers will sound an alarm bell and create a sense of urgency to turn things around.
“I believe firmly that we’ve got to completely reverse the trend and go beyond that,” said Lowery. “So you talk about 65% down to 53%, we’ve got to get to 65% and (go) beyond in order for Indiana to thrive.”
Lowery talked about the reasons behind the steep drop on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
According to the commission’s annual College Readiness Report, the pandemic caused the percentage of Indiana high school graduates pursuing college or other post-secondary training to fall by six percentage points, to 53%, in 2020.
The decline in the college-going rate for 2020 from the previous school year meant about 4,000 fewer high school graduates went to college than the year before, the report said. The drop was absorbed almost entirely by the state’s public colleges because nearly the same number of Indiana high school grads went to private or out-of-state schools as in the previous year.
Lowery believes the numbers point to the need to look beyond traditional education approaches for both youth and adult learners, in particular more partnerships with higher education institutions and employers and beefed-up policies and programming.