IN Brief

21st Century Scholars automatic enrollment in effect

By: - August 30, 2023 3:39 pm

House Bill 1499 seeks to auto-enroll eligible Hoosier students in the state’s 21st Century Scholars Program. (Photo illustration via Canva)

The first class of students to be automatically enrolled in 21st Century Scholars includes more than 40,000 students in the 2027 cohort, double the previous year’s enrollment, according to a Wednesday release from Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE).

The scholarship fund, created in 1990, covers full tuition and fees at Indiana colleges and universities for low-income students, who enroll in the 8th grade. Those automatically enrolled must still meet subsequent requirements.

“Indiana’s workforce depends on a skilled talent pipeline,” said Holcomb in a statement. “For over 30 years, the 21st Century Scholarship has played a transformative role in getting more Hoosiers prepared to enroll and succeed in college. Automatically enrolling income-eligible students into this life-changing program will lead to greater levels of educational attainment, stronger communities, and a globally competitive workforce.”

Earl Harris, Jr. (Photo from the Indiana House Democratic Caucus)

Automatic enrollment was included in the Governor’s 2023 Next Level Agenda and approved by legislators in House Enrolled Act 1449, authored by East Chicago Democrat Rep. Earl Harris, in the most recent legislative session.

“This legislation will ensure higher rates of equity for Hoosier students from all walks of life and help more Indiana students achieve a higher education and all the blessings that come with it,” Harris said in the release. “Helping students get enrolled in the 21st Century Scholars program will not just help individual students and their families, but the state as a whole by helping us build a skilled, 21st Century economy. This bill is a testament to the good that can happen when lawmakers work together for the benefit of their constituents, and I look forward to seeing the impacts of this bipartisan piece of legislation for generations to come.”

CHE commissioner Chris Lowery noted the low college-going rate for low-income Hoosiers of color.

“The college-going rate for students from low-income households who are not part of the 21st Century Scholars program is 30 percent,” Lowery said in a statement. “When multiplied by their on-time college completion rate of 27 percent, those students have roughly an 8 percent likelihood of graduating from high school and completing college on time. For Black students, the likelihood is 10 percent, for Hispanic and Latino students, it’s 17 percent. This is unacceptable, and in my view, it is an emergency.”

In contrast, students enrolled in 21st Century Scholars had an 81% graduation rate in 2021 and includes 50,000 collegiate degrees recipients since its inception.


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.