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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s graduation season in Indiana. High school seniors are looking ahead to the future, but state leaders are wondering why some kids aren’t continuing on to higher education. In fact, a new report found only 59% of the 2019 graduating class went to college.

Anne Bowen wouldn’t change a thing about her decision to attend Indiana State University.

“I want every student to be able to have that same experience,” she said.

She credits her time spent on campus to preparing her for what’s ahead after graduation and she steps into the workforce. But the soon-to-be senior understands college isn’t for everyone.

“There are so many routes to college and higher education,” Bowen explained, “It doesn’t have to be that traditional 4-year route.”

State leaders are encouraging students to seek some sort of continued learning, after a report shows the rate of students going to college in Indiana is at its lowest point in more than 10 years.

“The big takeaway this year is that we continue to see a decline in the college going rate in Indiana,” said Teresa Lubbers with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education is referencing the Indiana College Readiness Report 2021.

“Especially as Indiana’s economy is changing so dramatically,” Lubbers explained, “Where the skillset you need now, the qualifications actually more and more require some sort of education or training beyond high school.”

The report found that gaps are widening for students of color, men and those who live in low-income households or rural communities. To address this, the commission wants to a better job at making options clear to families.

“Because it’s overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-generation college student,” said Lubbers.

Lubbers believes student loans is a major factor in the decision process but says there are state programs to help like 21st Century Scholars. Her office distributes roughly $360 million a year to students.

“We’re working with community leaders, we can have all of these great programs, tuition free workforce ready grants, scholarships, but often students don’t know about them or they think it’s not for them,” said Lubbers, “Your job is to be academically prepared; we’ll make sure we can help with the financial situation.”

While the numbers of the report are serious, for lubbers, it highlights the work that needs to be done.

“Behind every number is a person,” she said, “So we talk a lot about data, but it’s because we really want to use that data to drive strategies that will make them more successful.”

The commission’s goal is to have at least 60% of all Hoosiers with education and training beyond high school by 2025.

For a deeper look at the report and how it breaks down by county and school district, you can click here to view that information, plus look at how it compares to years past.