Help our kids pursue degrees

September 4, 2010

Recent columns from Mickey Maurer (“Even CEOs need mentors,” Aug. 9) and Bruce Hetrick (“How to make the recession last forever,” Aug. 21) underscore important (and related) ideas, namely that everyone needs help and guidance to succeed, and that success in postsecondary education among our children is no longer an option.

Unfortunately, every year thousands of central Indiana’s youth lose the opportunity to realize their dreams and get ahead—by not going to college. A staggering half of Indiana’s students don’t go to college, and barely 40 percent of those who do complete a degree.

Many promising students—from all economic backgrounds—lack the guidance they need to access postsecondary opportunities. A 2008 survey from the Institute for Higher Education Policy revealed that many students failed to enroll in college simply because they did not complete the necessary steps to attend, including applying for financial aid, taking college entrance exams and applying for admission.

A college degree is critical to those trying to escape intergenerational poverty, yet most impoverished students are far less likely to persist and earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24. This is especially challenging for our community: In 2008-2009, more than 50 percent of Marion County’s public school eighth-graders qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, a common indicator of childhood poverty.

Our community should be proud of the strides that local schools are making to improve educational outcomes. Central Indiana Community Foundation believes we must leverage community-school partnerships to increase the number of students that succeed in postsecondary opportunities. This includes adequate academic preparation and also family, school and community mentoring designed to ensure our children do not miss their chance at more successful futures just because they don’t know how to pursue them.

These are the core components of CICF’s College Readiness Initiative, a community-wide effort to dramatically increase the number of students between grades 6 and 12 that are prepared to enroll in postsecondary education. CICF recently sponsored the inaugural Tutor/Mentor Summit, in partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth and the Mentor Alliance, to raise awareness of quality youth mentoring. We are also supporting the creation of College Pathway Teams in all Indianapolis Public Schools high schools.

CICF is joining the Lumina Foundation, LearnMore Indiana and other partners, along with area schools, to create a college-going culture. This initiative alone won’t solve the problem of too few children in our community earning college degrees. As Mickey Maurer pointed out, all of us need active guidance and support. The College Readiness Initiative is no different—and I invite you to help us with both.


Brian Payne
Indianapolis Foundation
Central Indiana Community Foundation

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