Lawmakers Propose Reforms to Higher Education Financial Aid

Indiana lawmakers say making the state’s higher education scholarship programs easier to understand and use will help increase graduation rates.

A student journalist works on a story for a college paper.

Photo: Shameka Neely /WFIU-WTIU News

A student journalist works on a story for a college paper.

Legislation approved by the Indiana House of Representatives will create baseline scholarships while providing bonuses for achieving at least a 3.0 GPA and graduating in four years or less.

Previously, the GPA was a requirement, not an incentive. The state will also provide a scholarship grid so parents and students can see how much money they’ll get each year. And LaPorte Republican Representative Tom Dermody says, in a recent survey, while 75 percent of Indiana financial aid students think they can graduate on-time, only about half are actually on track to do so. He says that’s why his bill requires each state university to create degree maps.

“We’ll now require all universities to sit and meet with every student and explain to them what it will take, from start to finish, to graduate in four years,” he says.

Bloomington Democratic Representative Matt Pierce, who’s also a college professor, says the problem with Dermody’s bill is that it tries to solve a problem without understanding its cause.  He says simply incentivizing on-time graduation doesn’t take into account the challenges students face.

“They have a lot of financial stresses,” he says. “Some have mental health issues. There are family issues – I mean, family members get sick; they decide they need to go home to take care of a parent who may be terminally ill.”

Pierce says he’s also concerned some in the General Assembly think higher education institutions deliberately make it harder to graduate on time in an effort to get more money from students.

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