State joins plan to help students graduate with less debt

Gov. Mike Pence announced Monday that Indiana is one of three states selected to lead a national initiative aimed at ensuring more college students graduate on time and with less debt.

The initiative, sponsored by the Lumina Foundation in partnership with Complete College America, will give a three-year grant of $1 million in cash and technological assistance.

The new program provides a new strategy called the Guided Pathway to Success, or GPS.

“We believe (GPS) will empower college students with highly structured and clearly sequenced career plans that will significantly boost college completion and close the attainment gap,” Pence said.

Pence said that GPS would be designed by college advisors and faculty to ensure its quality and value. GPS creates degree maps that would provide a semester-by-semester sequence of courses needed for a student to graduate on time – and in the shortest amount of time.

Jamie Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation, said GPS puts people on a clear path to actual accreditation through counseling and support that is needed

“GPS actually puts people on the path to success,” Merisotis said.

According to the commission’s college completion report, fewer than one third of students at a four-year post-secondary institution and 5 percent of community college students graduate on time. It also showed that it took students five to eight years to finish a bachelor’s degree and three to six years to finish an associate’s degree.

Pence said, on average, an Indiana college student would graduate with $26,000 in debt. If they have to take an extra year it could cost another $50,000 – not just in tuition – but lost wages and expenses.

“We believe, as the governor has indicated, Indiana has the finest systems of higher education, but we can always do better,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education.

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