State data show most of Indiana's incoming high school seniors who could qualify for a state-run scholarship program are at risk of missing out on the help.
More than 14,000 students, or 80 percent of those eligible, are behind on meeting the 21st Century Scholars program's new requirements, according to The Indianapolis Star. Through the program, students can get as much as four years of tuition at an Indiana public university or a comparable amount to go to a private school.
The program helps low-income students who stay out of trouble and satisfy particular academic requirements. Students graduating next year will be the first to have to complete 12 tasks to qualify for the program. Those tasks include making a college campus visit, coming up with a graduation plan and taking part in a service activity.
State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the new requirements were tacked on by lawmakers after there were concerns about poor rates of finishing college for students in the program. To reverse how students are doing, a "more rigorous program" was established by the state, Kenley said.
"I'm not too surprised to see we're still struggling with this," Kenley said. "It's going to take some time to turn this around."
Data show that 13 percent of incoming senior scholarship candidates in Marion County are up to date on fulfilling requirements. Roughly half have completed the process's first step, which is to register with a state website to record activities that are fulfilled.
Chris Duzenbery, Decatur Township school district's college and career readiness director, said there's an effort being planned to help seniors when they get back from summer break who haven't logged on to the website. Duzenbery said that students in the district cover most of the program's required activities through a course.
According to state data, just under 10 percent of potential scholarship recipients from Decatur Central High School's 2017 class have done all requirements for grades nine through 11.
"We have made a significant dent in being able to get these kids on track and get them caught up," Duzenbery said.
Almost $160 million to cover the program's scholarships was budgeted by the state for the coming school year. For the past school year, $174 million was budgeted.