More dual credit options for Indiana high schoolers could boost dismal college-going rate

Education officials say the push to help students earn college credit in high school will likely lead to more degrees

By: - September 12, 2022 7:00 am

For the 2022-23 academic year, 141 high schools and nearly a dozen postsecondary institutions will offer the Indiana College Core. The curriculum consists of a 30-credit-hour block of general education courses that transfer between all of Indiana’s public institutions and some private colleges. (Getty Images)

More Hoosier high schoolers than ever before have the option to earn college-level credit while still in secondary school — an opportunity that Indiana education officials say could boost the number of students who pursue some form of higher education.

For the 2022-23 academic year, 141 high schools and nearly a dozen postsecondary institutions will offer the Indiana College Core. The curriculum consists of a 30-credit-hour block of general education courses that transfer between all of Indiana’s public institutions and some private colleges.

Those Core credits can be earned through a combination of dual credit, Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment classes.

Members of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) said during a meeting Thursday that the expansion represents a 68% increase in the number of schools participating in the transfer credit program. Before this school year, only 84 Indiana high schools — or about one in five — offered the Core.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery maintained that students who earn College Core credits are more likely to enroll in college and go on to earn degrees or technical certificates. 

That could mean a helpful boost to Indiana’s overall college-going rate — recent data indicates only half of Indiana’s 2020 high school graduates pursued some form of college education beyond high school. The drop marked the state’s lowest college-going rate in recent history

“Dual credit is so impactful to the success of students,” Lowery said. “It means a world of difference for students … they have a higher likelihood of matriculating, persisting and completing college on time.”

Indiana schools expand dual credit options

Indiana University Bloomington and all five IU regional campuses, as well as Purdue University Northwest, and Purdue University Fort Wayne will serve as postsecondary partners of the College Core. Those campuses join Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University, which previously offered the courses for the program. 

Secretary of Education Katie Jenner (Courtesy IN.gov)

The higher education institutions have formal agreements with partnering Indiana high schools to deliver the Core to students through early college credit opportunities.

About 2,300 Indiana high school students earned the 30-hour block of general education credits in fiscal year 2022, said Charlee Beasor, ICHE associate commissioner for marketing and communications. Since 2014, over 10,000 high school students have earned the Core certificate.

“It opens up additional opportunities for you, including once in college,” Beasor said, noting that students who complete the core are more likely to succeed in advance-level coursework after high school.

Indiana education data shows that 90% of Indiana College Core earners from the class of 2020 went on to attend college. Once at college, those students are able to focus on major-specific courses earlier than their peers and pursue additional opportunities such as adding a minor and studying abroad. Additionally, they’re more likely to graduate on time or early and could pursue graduate school ahead of their peers who didn’t earn the Core while in high school.

The achievement comes with “obvious” cost savings, too, Beasor continued. 

By completing the Core, students earn a full year of college for little to no cost. The average cost for a year at a public institution is $22,000, equating to a savings of nearly $225 million for Hoosier students, according to the ICHE.

To help make the program even more accessible, Indiana University announced last month that it will waive the $25 per-credit-hour fee typically charged to high schoolers who take dual-credit courses through university.

IU President Pamela Whitten said Thursday the decision stemmed from a desire to expose more Hoosiers to higher education and encourage them to continue those studies after high school.

“We think this will be important in allowing us to continue to meet the needs of the state, frankly, while preparing high school students for what we all want — which is to pursue education beyond high school,” she said.

Boosting Indiana’s college-going rate

As recently as 2021, 76% of Hoosier students indicated plans to continue their higher learning after high school, said Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner. An ICHE report released in June showed that only 53% are actually going on to college or technical school, however. 

“We’re losing about 20% of a cohort who wants to continue going to college. I think that’s an important note of reference,” Jenner said.

Already, about 64% of Indiana students leave high school with at least 13.5 college credits, Jenner said. With many short term credentials requiring just 15 to 18 credits, that means most juniors and seniors are within one or two classes of completing a college credential.

“This makes our opportunity to work together on this more urgent than it’s ever been,” Jenner said. “We think that now is the time to really rethink high school to make sure we are as intentional as possible, and the coursework we’re asking students to complete includes access to a post secondary credential and a quality, work-based learning experience.”

The initiative to see more students to earn college credits comes amid a larger statewide push to get all Hoosiers better educated.

Indiana’s overall education attainment has yet to meet Gov. Eric Holcomb’s goal of having at least 60% of adult Hoosiers with a quality degree or credential beyond high school by 2025. 

Currently, that number is just over 48%, leaving a majority of Hoosier adults without a credential beyond a high school diploma.

“We’re still working to get done,” Jenner said. “But we believe that by 2030, we really can get 60% of Indiana students earning a credential by the time they even graduate high school.”

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Smith has had internships and fellowships at the Investigative Program in Berkeley, California, The Indianapolis Star, the Investigative Reporting Workshop in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post, National Geographic, USA Today and other publications. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.

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