New pre-admission program seeks to get more Hoosiers into colleges statewide
Students graduating next spring will be the first to participate in the initiative.
A new Indiana program seeks to grant high school seniors pre-admission to certain post-secondary institutions. (Getty Images)
A new statewide program seeks to put more Hoosiers on track for college — and get them earlier admission decisions.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) outlined its “Indiana Pre-Admissions: Your Path to College” initiative last week, indicating that rising high school seniors — the 2024 graduating class — will be the first to participate.
Through a partnership with many of Indiana’s higher education institutions, the commission will ensure students gain “pre-admission” letters from at least three schools.
Students are not promised direct admission to colleges and universities, however. The decisions are contingent upon maintaining eligibility criteria and taking the next steps to properly apply and enroll.
CHE officials said the program is largely a response to Indiana’s declining college-going rate. Just over half of Indiana’s 2020 high school graduates chose to go to college. Five years ago, 65% of Indiana’s high school graduates pursued higher education.
Greg Harrell, CHE’s director of legislation and program implementation, said the goal is to help students become more aware of their college options and help Hoosier students gain more access to financial aid.
Starting the college application process earlier means students are more likely to get grants and scholarships. Oftentimes, having those details ironed out in advance makes advanced education more attainable.
“Think of this initiative along the lines of another tool in the toolbox to promote the value of higher education … and to better inform Hoosier students and their families of the wonderful marketplace of opportunities that we have for post-secondary education and training in Indiana,” he said. “Simultaneously alongside that, it’s a way of really deliberately talking about the resources to help make pursuing these options — whatever they might be — more affordable for Hoosier families.”
How pre-admission works
Participating high schools will upload preliminary GPAs and other information for students in the class of 2024 to an online portal by June 15. Indiana’s Department of Education will additionally provide students’ SAT scores.
With that information, CHE can match rising seniors to institutions they qualify to attend by late summer.
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Students graduating next spring will receive an initial letter this August with details about the program before the official pre-admissions letter arrives following Labor Day in September. Parents and guardians will receive a copy of the letter, too.
One side of that letter will indicate which institutions the student has been pre-admitted to. The other side will provide information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and state financial aid.
After getting their pre-admissions letter, students must still apply to schools via the Common App or on institutional websites. Soon-to-be-graduates will also be required to complete the FAFSA, as mandated by state lawmakers.
Because pre-admission letters encourage earlier college application submissions, FAFSA filings are expected to come in quicker, as well. Hoosier students left at least $65 million in potential federal aid unclaimed just last year.
Only 31% of Indiana’s 2023 high school graduates have completed a FAFSA form as of Monday, according to CHE.
So far, nearly 80% of post-secondary institutions across Indiana have opted to participate in the inaugural program year, according to CHE. More schools are expected to join in the following year, as well.
Participating institutions have specific pre-admissions criteria based upon a student’s GPA and SAT scores, or just one of those metrics. The cutoff for SAT scores to be considered is May 26.
Hoosier high schools that want to take part in the program also have until May 26 to indicate their interest.
Getting more Hoosiers to college
Michelle Ashcraft, CHE’s associate commissioner for K-12 strategy, said every senior at each participating high school is guaranteed to get a letter that has three or more institutions listed. She noted that several participating institutions already have open admissions.
Those on the commission said it’s defining college broadly.
“We want students and families to know about all their options,” Ashcraft said. “That includes everything from workforce certificates all the way up to degrees.”
As the program matures, the commission hopes to send letters to students and families via email. CHE staff said they also plan to begin communications with ninth graders to help students and families prepare for pre-admission letter delivery senior year.
CHE data released last summer indicated that just 53% of Hoosier graduates furthered their education with certificate training, two-year program or at a four-year college. That’s a 6% drop from the class of 2019 – which represents about 4,000 fewer graduates – and 12% lower than in 2015.
Although there was an incremental drop in the percentage of students going directly from high school to some form of college in recent years, 2020 saw the “sharpest year-over-year decline,” according to the commission’s latest College Readiness Report.
The drop represents an ongoing challenge for the state, which was already behind on educational attainment goals. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb previously charged the state to equip at least 60% of the adult population with some form of higher education by 2025. Currently, that number is just over 48%.
What other states are doing
Pre-admission programs already underway in Idaho, Illinois, South Dakota and Minnesota have – so far – increased college-going rates in those states.
Ohio and Montana are contemplating similar programs, too.
Idaho’s program was the first to be implemented in 2016 and has since helped reverse declining post-secondary enrollments at both two- and four-year colleges. The state’s program is estimated to have increased undergraduate enrollment by 11.0%.
South Dakota followed suit in 2018. In 2019, Illinois passed legislation to develop a pilot program for the 2020-2021 academic year to automatically admit high-performing high school graduates to targeted four-year public colleges.
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