What state officials describe as a federal computer glitch has cost Indiana $3.2 million dollars in college-readiness grants.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP), is a federal program to help middle and high school students understand what they will need to apply for college. Indiana also uses the money to make students aware of the state-funded 21st Century Scholars program, which guarantees full tuition to a state school for students who keep their grades up and stay out of trouble.
But when it was time to reapply for the grant, Indiana was a day late. State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana is a state department charged with making college affordable to Hoosiers through need-based grants.
The department’s executive director Mary Jane Michalak says the staffer in charge of the application had been with SSACI for about six weeks, and contacted the U.S. Department of Education to make sure her username and login information for the grant website were valid.
“They got this technical message that she was not an authorized user. We couldn’t get through to anyone, contacted them the next day and by the time they got the issue resolved they would not accept it because the deadline had passed,” Michalak says.
Michalak says the commission is brainstorming ways to continue outreach efforts using the third of the budget that comes from state funds.
“The model that we‘re operating under has to change in some way,” she says. “We have not determined what that will be yet. It just means that without this $3 million, we need to sustain the program on the $1.8 [million] that we have been appropriated.
The agency hopes to settle on a plan within a couple of weeks.