Only 53% of Indiana’s high school graduates went to college in 1920

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The pandemic caused the percentage of Indiana high school seniors pursuing college or other postsecondary education to drop six percentage points to 53% in 2020, the state commission on higher education said.

That decline also represented an 18% drop from 2015 levels, the commission said in its College Readiness Report released Thursday.

“Indiana’s sharp year-long decline in college attendance is alarming and we need to treat it as such. We know that the lives of individuals and the economy of the state depend on and thrive with an educated society,” said Chris Lowery, who became Indiana’s commissioner for higher education in April.

The report shows that the previously gradual decline in the percentage of students going straight from high school to some sort of college — from less than a year to four-year degrees — has accelerated in 2020, likely due to the impact of the pandemic. Over five years, the total decline was 12 percentage points.

The decline in college enrollment for 2020 from the previous school year meant about 4,000 fewer high school seniors attended college than the year before, the report said. The decline was almost entirely absorbed by the state’s public colleges, as nearly the same number of Indiana high school graduates entered private or non-state schools as the year before.

In 2015, 65% of Indiana’s high school graduates went on to college or other post-secondary education.

Lowery said the state “needs to look beyond traditional approaches to education for both youth and adult learners.”

“This requires more conscious partnerships with our higher education institutions and employers, as well as increased policies and programs focused on student success,” he said.

The report recommended automatically enrolling all eligible students in the 21st Century Scholars program. Currently, less than half of eligible students enroll in the program, although it is successful in ensuring students are admitted and prepared for college.

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