Richard L. Ludwick
Special to the Tribune-Star
Leaders & Laggards, a report card on public higher education, was released recently by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It graded each state on factors thought to enhance student outcomes and ultimately meet the U.S. economy’s need for human capital.
Indiana earned an “A” for its policy environment, one that has produced performance funding for public colleges and clear transfer paths for students. As with most other states, Indiana’s state supported (public) colleges earned a “C” for student access and success (graduation rates, retention rates and credentials produced). About 30 percent of Indiana’s four-year public college students graduate in four years and slightly more than half do so in six years.
So, where’s the report card on Indiana’s private colleges? Find out firsthand.
Later this month, Indiana’s 31 private, non-profit colleges and universities will host Private College Week (July 23-27). Students, families, and others are urged to visit, assess and assign their own “grades.” Here are some facts corresponding to the Chamber’s measures to keep in mind while evaluating Indiana’s independent colleges:
• Policy Environment. Private colleges put students first; small classes and personal attention; over 90 percent receive financial aid with colleges giving high levels of aid in most cases. In addition, Indiana helps high-need students make smart choices with generous awards to students, including those attending private colleges.
• Access. Private college students come from all backgrounds, with first-generation, minority and low-income students finding above average success.
• Graduation. Most private college students graduate in four years or less, making them twice as likely to do so as other students; graduating 33 percent faster means careers start sooner and the net cost of a private college education is usually the same or less than other choices.
Credential Production. Private colleges have 20 percent of Indiana’s college students and produce 35 percent of its bachelor’s degrees; the ratio in STEM fields is even higher.
But there’s something more to consider — the X factor that only the campus visit can provide. Every private college or university has its own unique identity and personality. You can do all the research on a particular school — and you should — but there’s no substitute for walking the campus and getting the “feel” of the place. Most students intuitively sense when they’ve found the right place.
According to a 2011 report by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, students who visit campus before enrolling are more likely to stay and graduate. Finding the best fit for college is the smart step to avoid costly completion delay or even costlier dropping out.
There’s no doubt that a college education is worth the investment. According to the same Chamber study cited earlier, in Indiana the median wage of an individual with a bachelor’s degree is annually $16,800 higher (or more than 50 percent) than that of a high school graduate and the unemployment rate for a college graduate is about five points lower. College is definitely a smart choice and Indiana’s private colleges and universities are the “smarter choice.”
Please come see for yourself during Indiana Private College Week. A complete schedule is available at www.indianacollegechoices.org.
Richard L. Ludwick, JD, DEd, is the president and CEO of the Independent Colleges of Indiana.