Growth in Indiana college enrollment marks largest increase in 13 years

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This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Indiana.

More students are going to Indiana’s colleges and universities this fall, and the share of students earning degrees on schedule has also grown in the last few years, the state announced Wednesday.

Data released by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education showed that enrollment this fall increased by roughly 4,700 students from a year ago. That marks the largest year-over-year increase in 13 years, per the state. The commission reported that there are about 244,600 students enrolled in Indiana institutions of higher education this fall.

The new state data shows a move in a positive direction for state leaders, who are aiming to increase the state’s college attainment after years of declining college-going rates. That includes several efforts aimed at college access enacted earlier this year by state lawmakers.

Per the state, the number of undergraduate students increased by nearly 3% over last year; the number of graduate students declined by less than 1%.

The enrollment increase includes roughly 2,500 students from Indiana, a nearly 2% bump for in-state enrollment.

Enrollment increased at both two-year and four-year institutions. For students from Indiana, enrollment in two-year schools is up by roughly 3,200, and enrollment in four-year institutions is down by roughly 700.

The commission also said that more students are completing degrees on time, with a 9% increase over the last five years.

Earlier this year, the state also reported that Indiana’s college-going rate is about 53% for the Class of 2021, the latest data available. That’s about the same as the rate for the Class of 2020; the college-going percentage fell for several years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes approved by state lawmakers this year to improve college access include automatically enrolling students into 21st Century Scholars, which covers tuition for qualifying students; requiring all students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to access more funds; and  preventing state and for-profit private colleges and universities from refusing transcripts to current or former students who still owe money to the institution.

Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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7 thoughts on “Growth in Indiana college enrollment marks largest increase in 13 years

  1. This is great news. I hope the families are going about it in a cost-effective manner so they are not incurring significant debt. This can be done with the use of part-time/summer work, use of available scholarships and going about it seriously.

    1. Sadly, part-time/summer work is a drop in the bucket compared to most schools’ costs these days.

      Even if the work is doing something lucrative like a legal assistant, the pay is unlikely to do more than cover a semester’s worth of cost at the local dining hall.

  2. Talk about hiding the bad news well:

    “The enrollment increase includes roughly 2,500 students from Indiana, a nearly 2% bump for in-state enrollment. Enrollment increased at both two-year and four-year institutions. For students from Indiana, enrollment in two-year schools is up by roughly 3,200, and enrollment in four-year institutions is down by roughly 700. “

    So the number of Indiana students going to four year colleges is down and we are celebrating the number of kids going to two year colleges instead… along with the increased number of out-of-state and international students we’ve convinced to pay lots of money to come here.

    Sounds about typical for Indiana.

    1. Those dumb two-year, vocational, trade-school chumps…don’t they recognize that it takes at least four years to develop the sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the world to become a true global citizen?

      I can agree with you to some extent that it’s getting old cultivating students from other states/countries, but at least the internationals often pay lots of their own money, rather than using other people’s (taxpayers’) money the way the locals do. IIRC, Indiana is known as a “brain bank” state–a state where huge numbers of people go for higher ed from elsewhere, so that our college education population is actualy quite high in the 18-25 demographic–then drops off sharply as most of them leave for jobs elsewhere. New Jersey has the opposite problem: a paucity of kids attending school in the state (at least in proportion to the state’s hefty population), but most of them do return to the Garden State for fancy NYC jobs.

    2. It takes four years to get the kind of education for the jobs that we lose to other states with a better educated workforce. A workforce with two years of college is better than no years of college, and hopefully some of those are just getting college started on the cheap, but as a state, we should be aiming higher.

      If we are looking to increase the number of people with college degrees residing in Indiana, I’d suggest the best place to start would be increasing the number of slots for qualified Indiana students, which has been down since 2007 or so. If you’re in the top ten in your class at a major township high school taking a serious academic workload, you shouldn’t be being waitlisted at Purdue… a college which takes more international and out of state students than Indiana residents.

      Sending kids out of state, IMO, just triggers the cycle where they don’t come back. And as you correctly note, the out of state and international students also have no plans to stay … though I would staple a green card and all kinds of stay-in-Indiana incentives to those international students graduating with the big, meaty doctorate degrees…

  3. More of that trademark elitism, based on an understanding of the creative class that expired about 7 or 8 years ago. The mid 2000s are calling your name, Joe.

    The ROI on higher ed is terrible, but is markedly worse for four-year degrees. And as more and more unqualified students who are entering college despite having math/english scores at an 8th grade level, they are pushed increasingly into soft sciences, grievance studies programs, or National Symposia on Taylor Swift, while still incurring debts of $80K at a minimum. And finding themselves unemployable in white collar jobs with these huge debts. Thus, back to their old bedroom at Mom and Dad’s while working retail or as an admin assistant, alongside admin staff who didn’t go to college.

    Because I’m still fundamentally trailer trash in the eyes of most people here at IBJ, I have many family members who opted out of higher ed, only half of which also didn’t make good enough grades. The others just didn’t see the value. They became a mechanic, a video editor (vocational school), a medical assistant, and a welder. None of them had huge loans to pay off and they were all making well over $60K by their late 20s and early 30s. Only one left Indiana.

    Maybe we should stop caring as much about “looking to increase the number of people with college degrees residing in Indiana” and recognize that places with high numbers of college degrees quite frequently aren’t thriving?

    This assumption that “aiming higher” requites a certain quantity of ed fails to audit education for its quality. Every week or two, a tiny liberal arts college with weak endowment goes out of business. Before long, it’ll start hitting the Oberlin Group–prestigious and highly selective liberal arts schools that nonetheless are floundering as enrollment stagnates. (This includes Indiana schools like DePauw, Wabash, and Earlham.)

    How long can we continue to cling to the delusion that “educate the ever-loving heck out of them” isn’t working? If we assessed localities based on the concentration of higher ed degrees alone, the SF Bay area should be paradise. It remains pretty and filled with things to do, but it has all the social ills of Detroit but at absurdly high cost of living. We can’t operate using mid 2000s criteria anymore.

    1. So because some kids go to some schools and get some bad degrees, higher education is a waste. So by that logic since some people drink too much, no one should be allowed to drink.

      Can you make a good living without a college degree? Sure! Can you make a better one, on average, with a college degree. Yep.

      Do I know folks without college degrees who do fine? Yep. Each of them busted their butts so their kids would go to college and not have to follow the same path, because as one of them told me, it’s hard as heck and when your body goes, so does your income.

      But let’s look at Indiana – what areas are thriving? The areas with lots of amenities and shiny infrastructure and really good public schools. Who is moving to those areas? The people who can afford them due to the high demand, who are largely the people with college degrees. Most but not all. Why are they moving there? So their kids can get a good education so they can, like them, go to college.

      Are people in Indiana moving to the areas where the schools are blah and the town square is desolate and, if you’re lucky, there’s a Dollar General AND a Family Dollar? Based on the latest census numbers, no.

      I’m beginning to think you don’t like higher education for political reasons, which is pretty lame.

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