City directs $1.4M in relief funds to adult, postsecondary education programs

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The city of Indianapolis and local education providers on Thursday announced the expansion of two postsecondary education programs through the city’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds. 

Last week, the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a second allocation of federal funds provided to the city through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that included more than $1.4 million to help Marion County residents complete degrees. 

The appropriation included $327,500 for Indy Achieves Completion Grants, which cover debt and unpaid bursar bills preventing low-income students at Ivy Tech Community College and IUPUI from continuing their education. The grants pay off the balances they owe, allowing them to get back to school. 

The funds will go to students who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another $1.1 million is being used to fund Rapid Reskilling Grants that will be distributed by EmployIndy to seven adult education providers in Marion County to be used to cover expenses related to e-learning and short-term postsecondary certifications that open more job opportunities to students. 

That’s a second round of funding for Rapid Reskilling Grants, which received $1.5 million in the city’s first appropriation, to increase opportunities available to adult students seeking their high school equivalency, high school diploma or postsecondary certificates. 

To date, the city has allocated roughly $92 million of the $168 million it received in federal relief funds. Unless Congress changes guidance for the funds, the city has until the end of the year to spend the money or it must be returned. 

City leaders say they’re hoping continued conversations with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation will lead to laxed rules that would allow the city to shore up revenue losses with the money, which is why it is being appropriated slowly. 

Kathleen Lee, Ivy Tech Community College chancellor of Central Indiana, said a significant number of students have lost work during the pandemic or had someone in their household hurt by COVID-19. 

“Families are just in flux right now, and it makes it hard to think about school,” she said. 

Mayor Joe Hogsett said postsecondary education will play a big role in helping people find work both during and after the pandemic.

“If our community is dedicated to a return to an even better Indianapolis, we must find ways to provide a realistic path to prosperity for all residents,” he said. “Our success as a city depends not just on attracting the business of the future, but on educating the workforce of the future.” 

Indy Achieves officials said they aren’t yet sure how many students the completion grants will help return to school this fall. At IUPUI, 84 students will receive completion grants.

At Ivy Tech, 26 students are so far signed up for completion grants, but that number is expected to grow as students enroll for the college’s second quarter, which begins in October. 

Since June, because of funding for the Rapid Reskilling Grants through EmployIndy, an additional 1,367 dislocated workers in Marion County have enrolled into adult postsecondary education programs, representing a 20% expansion, said Marie Mackintosh, chief operations officer for EmployIndy. 

“This appropriation allows for individuals to overcome barriers to pursuing and completing their secondary or postsecondary education degree, which will better prepare them to land a good job in Indianapolis as the economy recovers,” she said.

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